By Andy Sambidge
New research shows that parents are willing to pay more and travel further for the best education
UAE-based parents consider academic record to be more important that the level of fees when deciding which school is best for their children, according to new research.
The study into the attitudes of parents in the UAE has revealed that academic record, extracurricular activities and technology outweigh the importance of fees and location.
The YouGov Education Investment study surveyed about 500 parents throughout the UAE to understand the key factors that impact a school's reputation.
The study found that when evaluating schools, parents placed a school's academic record as the most important, followed by its overall reputation, the range of subjects taught, the range of extracurricular activities on offer and the school facilities available.
Functional attributes such as the proximity of the school to home, ease of access and school fees were deemed less important, suggesting that parents in the UAE are more willing to pay higher costs or travel further in order to place their child in a school with a strong academic record.
The survey found that 44 percent of parents believed they receive good value for money from their child's school, citing factors such as the quality of the class teacher, positive word of mouth recommendations, and the quality of the head teacher as attributes which contribute significantly to their perception of value for money.
Kailash Nagdev, managing director at YouGov UAE, said: "These insights show that it is critical for schools to invest in their reputation. This means firstly understanding how parents evaluate schools and secondly, understanding what parents see as 'value add'.
"Our research and sector experience tells us that these needs vary according to nationality and choice of curriculum. A strong reputation needs to be earned over time but it starts with truly understanding parents and children's needs. This research suggests that delivering on parents' needs will have a greater impact on the long term success of a school than other, often assumed important factors such as location and price."
According to the Knowledge and Human Development Authority school rankings for 2013-2014, seven schools received an 'unsatisfactory' grade upon inspection, while 12 establishments were tested as 'outstanding'.
Approximately half of the 140 schools in Dubai were ranked between 'outstanding' and 'good', while the overall pass rate stood at 95 percent.
The full results, findings and analysis of the study will be revealed to delegates of the Education Investment MENA conference which takes place in Dubai next week.
And herein lies the problem with escalating school fees. I am sure many of the parents who have said the fees are less important than the results have their school fees paid for by their employer. So of course the cost is of little consequence to them, a fact which does not go unnoticed by the greedy school owners who have in recent years achieved massive increases that were totally unjustified. I have personally financed 4 kids though the UAE schooling system so believe me I am an expert on school fees! But all the hidden costs go unreported. For example a Duke of Edinburgh field trip does not happen in RAK but Mauritius! AED10,000 cost. A drama trip to London costs AED12,000 as the school chooses to accommodate the kids in the Hilton! School buses have always been a rip off - increases applied to them at the same time as school fees....justification given as DEWA bills and teachers salaries rising. And what does this have to do with a school bus? I am so glad I am out of this now!