Dubai's Alabbar hit a nerve with residents

Comment: What the Emaar Group Chairman said about tuition fees resonated with the public because he spoke the truth.

Speaking truth: Mohamed Alabbar said what readers are thinking.

Speaking truth: Mohamed Alabbar said what readers are thinking.

The stories that affect readers are the ones that touch the lives of the men and women who live in the community in which a news organisation publishes.

Online traffic for is at its highest when we have great local stories. What is even more telling about which stories resonate is the total number of reader comments a particular article receives.

Online hits are a great indicator of a story’s popularity, but a clickbait story is indicative of nothing but being a great clickbait story.

According to a 2015 poll of 1,471 American respondents that was released in March 2016 by the Engaging News Project out of the University of Texas at Austin, one popular reason why readers left comments was “to express an emotion”.

So, when a reader is inspired enough to write a comment, it means the story has struck a nerve, and that is exactly what Emaar Group chairman Mohamed Alabbar did when he spoke at the recent Arab Youth Survey roundtable. quoted the UAE businessman as saying private school fees are too high. A great story there, but then – thankfully – he went on: “I am very close to private educators. They suck the life out of the fees. I’m not sure if education should really be privatised. I know private schools have good discipline. But some of these fees – how can any human being pay like this?”

Sometimes in a newsroom, there comes along a story that is so perfect “it will break the internet”, as a British former colleague used to say. The meaning is that it has the right amount of everything that people like to read. For instance,’s story about a company looking to tow icebergs from Antarctica to Fujairah just enough unbelievableness to make it popular with readers.

Then there are the stories that inspire reader to write comments.

Here is a billionaire speaking out for people who do not have the same pulpit. He is saying what everyone is thinking, and he is fortunate enough to have the podium from which to say it.

On, a guide that looks at all things education in the Middle East, the three most expensive schools (from a list of 102 private Dubai schools that offer Grade 12 (Year 13) education) are GEMS World Academy, Dubai AED107,928 ($29,383); Repton School, Dubai AED100,759 ($27,431); and Kings School, Al Barsha AED100,000 ($27,224).

According to, which is a Harvard University site:

“The total 2016-2017 cost of attending Harvard College without financial aid is $43,280 for tuition; and $63,025 for tuition, room, board, and fees combined.

It goes on: “Families with students on scholarship pay an average of $12,000 annually toward the cost of a Harvard education. More than 55 percent of Harvard… students receive scholarship aid, and the average grant this year is $50,000.”

All of this means that -- on average -- it is less expensive to send a student to Harvard than it is to send a student to certain high schools in Dubai.

I’m not sure what the answer is to the question of public versus private education, or how we can rollback rising fees, but I do know that reading the dozens of comments on our website, Alabbar hit upon an issue that is not likely to go away any time soon.

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Posted by: Vito rammuzzi

Am quiet angry that Mr Al Abbar talks about high school fees and conveniently forgets about high mall rates, high community fees in his master communities, which single handedly out priced Dubai for many residents and millions of tourists.
He may need to look at his own house rather than taunting private school providers

Posted by: John

And now Mr Alabbar is moving jobs away from Dubai. Is that fair?

Posted by: MT3

There is a link the writer didn't make and that is to discuss why Harvard can afford to provide such generous subsidies for many of its pupils. Harvard enjoys the world's largest - USD 32bn currently - educational endowment; a fund so large it has its own bespoke funds management company to manage it as well as utilizing the services of a number of elite hedge funds. Without going into detail much of this money was and continues to be given to Harvard largely by altruistic benefactors and alumni - it is not retained earnings from educational services. Simply put because rich men in America were and are willing - for whatever reasons, some undoubtedly narcissistic and self-serving - to donate large sums of money to Harvard, education can be subsidized. As there are no equivalent NFP educational establishments in UAE, as far as I know, this is not possible here

Posted by: Maxi

It does not matter how a person in a responsible position or a member of the government body addresses an issue in a public forum. Words mean nothing, unless something is actually done about it. Whether something will be truly done about it is the question. The plight of some parents is deplorable. Families are separated, as they cannot afford the ridiculous fees that are being charged for schooling, and that to me is a shame. When the country is amass with 'happiness' messages. Something to think about. Happiness is after all a state of mind and not just a emoticon!

Posted by: SKNC

I am of the view that both private and public participation should co-exist in all the sectors, however, schools should be allowed to operate only on cost plus model with a maximum cap @ 5% mark-up and not permit investors targeting 15 - 20% profit every year. Having said state subsidy should be provided to schools, tuition fee should he administered and cost should be audited in order for education to be more affordable. This would help sector growth in the country and deter parents from sending there children back home or elsewhere to study

Posted by: Ravi

I concur 100%!

Most "school owners" are investors with large portfolios in other businesses/holdings and hence they judge the viability of all their investments equally. They fail to acknowledge that a quality education is a social and moral responsibility on any stakeholder, it shouldn't be about ROI, it should be about results.

The existing network of "outstanding" schools have totally priced out children who may be very gifted but lack the financial means to compete at a level playing field.

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