The scandal of UAE school fees

Anil Bhoyrul argues that UAE schools are earning thousands of dollars for doing absolutely nothing

Dina Haddad

In Montreal we have the same system, registration fees are between 100$-150$.
The best.. We pay 100$ every year for ALREADY registered child for the next year, means that at the end of 6 years of secondary school, they cash 600$ /per child for ONE time registration.
By simple calculation the school ends by having 150,000 $ per year as cash in hand, literally in their pocket.
If one try to ask why, traditional reply is: public school are free.

Manesh Gurnani

SE - i agree fully with yr 2nd point. The schools r giving all homework on the net, thereby saving teachers time & money on stationery, books, etc, after v paying so high exhorbent school fees. What r the teachers doing in the classroom??? My daughter is in 2nd grade GEMS school & frankly most of the homework (90%) has to be done with the assistance of her mother, as it requires checking on net, printing, photographing, pasting. Sometimes same topic is dragged for a whole school term, without any extra further educational topics. If parents r to educate our children at home, then what is school for, playing or has my daughter's school headmaster told in a meeting that "parents r suppose to teach the children & the school is only here to assist the children in learning" rubbish!!! I request Dubai education dept, KDHA, to take a serious step b4 v parents lose our patience.


One more time Gems has set the trend on raising extortionate fees in the UAE. For 2013-2014 they have jacked up re-enrollment fees to 2,500AED and parents of new students don't get their fees back in they do not get a seat. Sadly, other schools have followed suit. Bradenton Prep, just to mention one, has increased its re-enrollment fees from 500AED to 2,500AED and they are also requesting the payment be made by Feb. 14th. KHDA rated them as acceptable (notorious Nibras got the same rating by the way) yet they believe they ought to command obscene fees 8 months ahead of the new academic year.

I can only praise and encourage Anil and other brave journalists to continue using their share of voice and to write on the controversial topic of schooling fees until Govt. steps in to regulate the business of education. Parents can raise their voice as well. Imagine the impact of an online petition signed by the 100,000+ parents whose children are schooled here.


It would be interesting to read the report with the following details
-how much money each school was making from registration process
-how many kids registered and how many got spaces
-how transparent the registration process was
-How was the "customer service" after the school collected 500 AED


I think the main problem here is with outstanding schools (there might be 1 exception), they think they are the best on the planet. I wanted to have a tour in one of the outstanding schools and the lady was saying from a distance "we are fully booked for 2 years" I asked about the open day and she said we don't have any as we are so busy. She was saying that without asking about the age of my child. They are also too busy to inform parents who registered that their child didn't get a space, they don't bother answering the phone or responding to emails.
Arabian Business bravo!!!!


Well, to name some: Kings School, Jumeirah School, Jebel Ali Primary, Wellington...just a couple that have extremely well commercially trained Registrars that give you an excellent pitch, only to find out that 200 other parents have been swindled into paying 500 non-refundable dirhams for 20 places they have internally secured. Great cash flow operation.

Also, if you dig into the backers of these schools, you will find "very well run" private equity firms reporting interest ROI's in their funds exposed to "education".

Wake up and smell the dubai coffee machine.


It is no longer an education but a poorly managed business.

2 weeks after my 3 year old son started his first semester in September, the "prestigious" school decided to increase the tuition significantly though they had promised that they wouldn't a few weeks earlier.

I receive weekly invitations to get my son to join after school activities. The invite highlights the name of the activity and the cost associated to it without giving any details to the actual activity. In addition, they keep promoting these activities to the children in class in order for them to do the same with their parents.

The solution is not government interference but for us, the consumers to object collectively.


The solution is simple. If admission is not granted, AED 400 is refunded. They can keep AED 100 for answering the phone.


1. In Gems schools, parents are asked to pay fees for 10 months in a year. The number of working days in March is at maximum five days and yet we have to pay for transport and tuition for the whole month. What gives?
2. Children in GEMS schools are being increasingly asked to 'research' information on the net and come to school prepared to present it. They are planning to do away with textbooks that were paid for at the beginning of the year. If children are to research topics on the net and only appear for assessments in schools, is it not better to home school them? Why bother with school if parents are to supervise all this?
3. Transport fees charged by STS increased along with the towfuel hikes in Dubai. The fuel prices were reduced; however there was no reduction in transport fees. Now they claim that since they have to fit all buses with surveillance equipment, they have to charge more. Can they not adjust with the difference in the fees that they have been charging unfairly?


Since we all want the best for our children are we not prepared to invest in this? These stories always focus on the abhorrent assumption of schools making a profit off the back of hard working ex-pats. Well sorry but your sad stories of being hard done by the education system in this country has quite another side to it. It costs money to set up schools with good resources and well qualified teachers and provide the best education demanded by the very people who are always complaining about the expense of it all. I am not justifying the costs of registration or some of the other issues involved where clearly the KHDA have the responsibility of instructing the schools in respect of their fees structure, including registration fees. It is not the schools therefore you should be complaining to but the KHDA themselves.


David, the schools here simply offer very little value for money. For similar prices elsewhere in the world, you get schools with a track record of Ivy League graduates. Here, the graudates go to mid tier universities that most of us could have gotten into anyway!

So I'm not sure where all that money is going, since its certainly not in making the students more appealing to top universities.


I agree that there should be greater transparency and responsibility shouldered by schools. It would be easy to issue a clear set of actions regarding the admissions policy and requirements at the point of application explaining fully what the charges are, points of contact and so on. But how do you stop parents registering at multiple schools to ensure they will eventually get a place for their child and at the same time give the schools some degree of control over expected take-up on places for budget and employment purposes. If there was no charge at all or if the money was refundable parents could register just where they liked and with no consequence when they make their choice.


Sarcastic Telco?? I think you have to check the meaning of business. Where is the exchange of value in currency or in kind except one way lugging? Only sarcastic transaction we know in similar ethics are those Nigerian emails where the receiver does not respond back anything in return. We are in Dubai.

Look at any currency bill, CBs promise you to pay and you extend the same promise to others against a return. Where is the return here? What is the proof of existence of a seat and did they evaluate that piece of form that they printed?

Again, I can ignore boneheads, Parents salaries are result oriented until otherwise you have a different way of milking the employer to gain your salary that may not ethically acceptable to others. If someone takes yr money without give you anything in return, it is financial forgery. Apologise or better repay or both if you consider education noble.

Mark Renton

David, the KHDA do not force schools to charge registration fees, nor re-enrollment fees for that matter. It is very interesting (and fairly predictable) to see which schools will exploit the regulations to the maximum, and which will look at parents as valued customers, and not just a bunch of mugs to be milked for as much money as possible.

I'd like to believe that the KHDA are the right channel for complaints, let's all complain and see if anything happens......


One wouldn't complain if the quality of education was reflected in the high fees. I would gladly pay if they only hired competent tutors and paid them decent salary. In the school where my kids study, there is a lot of hype about the emphasis on 'global values' and extra-curricular activities but all this is at the expense of academic excellence. Lot of gimmicks like laptops, audio-visual aids etc just before KHDA inspection but back to the old mediocre teaching soon after! Teachers are paid a pittance so none with any skill stay back; only the jobless housewives who have some graduate qualification but no teaching experience are recruited b'coz it's cheaper to hire them! The result is that we have to arrange private tutoring for our children, to compensate for the woeful teaching that has robbed our hard-earned money and given us nothing to show for it!


Mr. David,
I think you are missing the point.
it became a practice to charge the AED500 regardless if there or will be any vacancy.
don't you think the school should have a pretty good idea on the registered students.

I fully support that this has to stop.

Scott Feasey

Is is a crime - anyone fancy joining me to lobby for a change in the Law?

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