The UAE is the most expensive country in the GCC for education, according to figures that also show fees highest in the Emirates for UK and Indian schools operating in the region.
Cost of Living Reports Middle East (CLR) found average school fees across all curriculums in the UAE as of Q4, 2013 were $10,250 a year, with the fees ranging from an average $2,263 for Kindergarten students to $18,237.25 for Year 12.
This was closely followed by Oman with average schools fees of $10,105, Saudi ($8,652), Kuwait ($8,461), Qatar ($8,3123) and Bahrain ($7,242).
In Oman fees ranged from an average $6,023 for Kindergarten to $14,186.25 for Year 12, with the range in Saudi $3,048 to $14,257, Kuwait ($5,283 to $11,638), Qatar ($3,473 to $13,152) and Bahrain ($3,696 to $10,788).
CLR said high school fees in the UAE – the fourth most expensive in the world for expats - were the result of high demand and restricted supply, forcing 87 percent of employees to spend more than their company allowance on school fees.
Citing a WhichSchoolAdvisor.com survey, it said some expats were spending up to 30 percent of their annual income on school fees if at least two children were at school.
However, it warned the cost will affect the type of occupations the UAE was able to hire from abroad. “If education is too expensive we will see that the UAE will be less likely to attract middle and senior management positions, because these people have families and may not want to educate their children in an expensive, not necessarily better, educational system,” it said.
The CLR report found the Indian curriculum had the highest increase in applications, with Indian schools in Abu Dhabi receiving more than three times as many applications as they had places and turning away “hundreds of children”.
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Compounding the issue, Abu Dhabi limited class sizes at some schools to 25 students in lower grades and 30 in middle and high school classes.
According to the report, US curriculum schools were by far the most expensive across the GCC with average annual fees of $12,020 a year and fees as high as $26,235 a year for Year 12 studies in Bahrain.
The lowest school fees were schools using an Indian curriculum at an average $2,342.67 a year. UK curriculum school fees were $9,819 on average and International curriculum schools were $11,166.34 a year.
However, the report showed this varied between GCC countries, with US schools fees $8,752 in Qatar but $16,761 in Bahrain. For UK schools it varied from an average $3,744 in Bahrain to $13,416 in Oman, while Indian schools were $6,001 a year in the UAE compared to $709 in Saudi.
Only international schools fees were relatively consistent, though Bahrain came in cheapest at $7,579 a year.
CLR head of operations Nicholas Nice said a lot of big US universities were opening braches in the Qatar, which could be an incentive for reducing prices at high school level, while Bahrain only had one or two schools teaching the US curriculum so costs were higher.
He said the high cost of Indian schools in the UAE was a stand out figure and was both the result of authorities closing some schools in Abu Dhabi in 2013 and the reduction in class sizes, leaving a pool of unmet demand.
The report found overall enrolment in private schools was highest in Dubai at 87.8 percent of 218,000 registered students, followed by 58 percent of the 305,000 students Abu Dhabi. Of this, nationals accounted for 55 percent and 30 percent of the totals respectively.
Meanwhile, in Saudi 75.6 percent of nationals attended public schools with only 9.6 percent in private schooling. In Kuwait, nationals accounted for 56.7 percent of all public school enrolments and only 9.4 percent of private school students.
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However, Nice said in terms of expats attending public schools, Qatar ranked first with 18.6 percent, followed by the UAE with 9.6 percent.
“This goes hand in hand with what we have been observing over the past few years, which is that education in Qatar and the UAE is most expensive across the GCC on average,” he said.
He said expats in Qatar and the UAE were also most likely to obtain schooling benefits from their employer, with a survey showing 57 percent of UAE expats received schooling benefits for two or more children. “The percentages where much less in other GCC countries like Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait, with a combined average of only 32 percent,” he said.
Nice said the GCC on was expected to witness a 20 percent increase in enrollment rates by 2020, with the steepest growth forecast for Qatar and the UAE, mainly due to the influx of expat employees they’re expecting for the 2022 World Cup and Expo 2020 preparations, respectively.
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