Another Dubai parent said she was satisfied with the value for money she received for her three daughters’ primary school education, which costs AED38,000 per year at Jumeirah English Speaking School (JESS).
But she could not understand why the fees doubled between Year 6 and Year 7 to AED65,660 – more than a UK university.
“I don’t know what more she’s going to get for it to jump that much,” the parent, who requested anonymity, said.
A spokesman for GEMS Education, the for-profit company that runs the school, said fees usually covered more tuition time per week than a university course, as well as other curricular activities.
Some employers also paid school fees or offered bonuses within employees’ salary packages, which were not available for university fees.
A spokeswoman for Repton, another school in Dubai, said fees were more expensive than UK universities because funding models were significantly different.
Teachers had to be recruited from the country where the school’s curriculum originated and their salary packages included extras such as housing and medical insurance that were not covered by universities. But compared to similar UK private schools, Dubai was cheaper.
Hynes said despite years of paying about AED70,000 per year for his son’s private education in Dubai, he still was not at the same academic level as his peers when he applied to enrol in the UK.
“[Dubai schools] are simply not delivering the quality of education that they should,” Hynes said.
“There’s something going badly wrong in the education here; it’s hugely expensive and it’s not delivering the UK quality education.
“The reason Dubai College and JESS get away with it is because there’s not enough supply of high quality schooling and there hasn’t been for decades.”
Hynes said parents of children in Asian and Indian schools were similarly struggling. Although their annual fees were significantly lower – at about AED15,000-18,000 – they were still excessive relative to their salaries.
Dubai school fees are set in line with the Knowledge and Human Development Authority’s school fees framework.
Schools can apply to increase their fees according to their rating by the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau.
Schools rated 'outstanding' can increase their fees by double the educational cost index (ECI). Those rated good may increase fees by 1.5 times the ECI, while others can only charge the ECI.
Hynes said even with KHDA limits on school fees, increases do not apply to extras such as school trips, which can cost up to AED10,000.