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Tue 2 Mar 2010 02:58 PM

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High fees push UAE pupils overseas

EXCLUSIVE: Soaring tuition costs and teacher turnover driving UAE pupils to UK private schools.

Pricey school fees and high teacher turnover are driving a spike in applications from UAE pupils to private schools in the UK, a British education consultancy has said.

Parents based in the UAE are considering UK boarding schools over local private schools as economic insecurities price them out of the market, said Sara Sparling of Sue Anderson Consultants (SAC), a firm that works with overseas families to place pupils in UK schools.

“The schools are good [in the UAE] but they get full. There is the issue of waiting lists. And the prices definitely play a role,” she said speaking on the sidelines of an education event in Dubai.

“It seems that every September there is a flurry of fees rising by 30 percent. That is a huge hike for parents, particularly if they have more than one child in the school.”

Fees at a number of top-tier UAE day schools are more expensive than those at all-inclusive British boarding schools, she added.

“Another issue is transient teaching staff. We’ve spoken to a number of families whose children have had between five and seven teachers for one subject in GCSE over a two-year programme. It is awful because the child is not getting the best chance.”

SAC placed nearly 70 children from UAE-based families in UK schools last year, a 20 percent increase on the previous year’s placements, and anticipates a further increase this year.

The firm saw a surge in applications in the wake of the first set of results from Dubai Schools Inspections Bureau, which saw more than a third of private schools in the emirate graded as ‘acceptable’ or ‘unsatisfactory’.

The lack of special needs provision in the UAE has also pushed parents to consider overseas schools, Sparling said.

“We’re seeing a lot of children with special needs who aren’t being supported here. We saw an increase [last year], and we also saw an increase in enquiries from local families.”

The firm’s Middle East segment has, for the first time, outstripped placements from families in the British Forces.

According to the latest figures from the Independent Schools Council, a body that represents 1,256 private schools across the UK, there has been a two percent rise in the number of pupils that have parents based in the Middle East.

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Dan 10 years ago

Well done greedy school owners. You are driving out those who the greedy landlords could not. I know it’s like talking to a wall, but I feel bad for UAE, the way these greedy people are ruining a beautiful country.

Cash Flow Messiah 10 years ago

Not to mention the lack of options in fields of study, going on to the sheer lack of quality of teaching (& learning) in UAE schools, colleges & universities. What's ironic is that the average UAE educational costs are higher than western counterparts despite these shortcomings! Why would any sensible parent appoint a UAE institute in place of something much better (and cheaper at the same time) for his/her childrens' education?

George 10 years ago

Well if you think it is only the school fees that are high. well think again because there are also lots of hidden fees that schooling in dubai require. What is not hidden cost is books, additional classes, class activities, launch break pocket money and etc. Hidden cost are more of socioeconomic costs like getting a maid, a big house, a car, gifts and new gadgets just because "my friend has it". I don't think any parent would want to see his son sad because he can't afford it. Just count how many Child is now having a BlackBerry.

RBH 10 years ago

Empty handed we shall come to U.A.E. and empty handed we shall leave from U.A.E.

H. dastoor 10 years ago

GEMS worldwide academy is charging upto AEd 95,000 /year in Dubai. However in Abudhabi under ADEC supervision, they are allowed to charge a maximum of AED 55,000/annum only. Just shows that can still be profitable at lower fees, but its just greed when it comes to fleecing Dubai residents.

harry dee 10 years ago

When we lived in Dubai, we paid EAD45k a year for my 7 yr old to attend a GEMS school. Back home (NZ) that would be the fees for one of the best private schools in the country. The difference? In New Zealand, the child would attend an educational establishment. In Dubai it is a business, set up to generate profits for the owners - nothing more or less than that. Is this what the Emirates' rulers want in their country? If so, there is nothing more to be said.

maggie 10 years ago

My children came from private sector in UK. They were certainly good schools but to me fees here seem cheaper - and we are happy with teachers and schools. When I left UK in 2008 the cost of sending a child to private school in England has risen by 43% in five years, according to newspaper accounts - in my childrens school it was more. Certainly yearly rises were always outstripping inflation and we struggled. plus we had to find that out of earned income. My kids love their schools here and we are really pleased with care and progress.

mark, dubai 10 years ago

fees here are OBSCENE as well as all the other stuff - books, food, bus etc, etc.... these people should not be allowed to own corner grocery shops let alone schools

nasir 10 years ago

i guess schools owners would face the same fate as the property developers if they continue on the same line. people will start sending their children aborad or back home and soon they wont have children to fill up the spaces. and like rents they will have to drop fees to fill their schools up. in the long run the profit level cant remains high in any business. but thats in a free economy

Danno 10 years ago

my wife and I had a discussion about how deprived our 2 year old is of community centers, play time, baby song time, etc. that was available for free in Vancouver, and that my other child had plenty of. We looked into a nursery, just for our toddler to get that exposure, and not because we need a nursery (mom doesnt work). So we checked out Emirates British Nursery in mirdif. you need to sit down for this: 4 hours per day 5 days a week, 8.5 months a year for 23,400 plus a bunch of fees; 2,100 for a whopping total 25,600 AED or nearly $7000 usd ! If you go for the 8.5 hours per day, then its 36,600 AED or about 10K usd !!