By Sarah Townsend
Mohamed Alabbar calls for affordable education in region while Aramex founder says system is "broken"
Private school fees are too high in the region and threaten to exclude poorer children from the education system, UAE businessman Mohamed Alabbar has warned.
The Emaar Group chairman questioned whether education should be privatised and said extortionately high private school fees were to blame for lack of access to high quality education and a general failure to prepare young people for the jobs market.
Alabbar said: “I am very close to private educators. They suck the life out of the fees.”
He added: “I’m not sure if education should really be privatised. I know private schools have good discipline. But some of these fees – how can any human being pay like this?
“So it hurts, it hurts me that the guy who needs the most help, who can’t even afford to pay AED2,000 [$500 per year]…He’s the guy we need to help.
“[The person] who can pay AED50,000 [$13,600], well, I don’t care, he can send his kids to school in London if he wishes. But what about that guy with seven kids who can’t afford to pay even AED1,000 [$272] for their education. That’s where the pain is.”
Unemployment was cited as the biggest obstacle facing young Arabs in the Middle East, while few young people outside the GCC believe their education system prepares students for the jobs of the future, according to Asda’a Burson-Marsteller’s ninth annual Arab Youth Survey, published on Wednesday.
More than one-third (35 percent) of respondents to the survey cited unemployment as their biggest concern, along with the rise of Daesh (35 percent), threat of terrorism (34 percent) and rising cost of living (27 percent).
Only half of young Arabs (51 percent) said they have confidence in their governments dealing with youth unemployment, while 49 percent of respondents said they were “not satisfied” with how schools prepare young people for the jobs world.
The survey was based on interviews with 3,500 16-24-year-olds across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
At its launch in Dubai, Alabbar said: “Educators [in the region] need to stand together and say, ‘What are we doing? What did [students] get a low mark? Why did we fail them?’”
Fadi Ghandour, founder of UAE logistics firm Aramex and managing partner of Wamda Capital, suggested there was a disconnect between the education system – its syllabuses, educators and the knowledge they produced in students – and the wider needs of the jobs market.
“I don’t want to generalise, but the product that is coming out tells us that the education system is broken; the outcome of that system is broken.
“It needs us – private sector, government sector, educators – to come together and say, what do we need to do [to improve things]? The first thing to do is to declare it’s not working.”
Private school fees in the GCC are among the highest in the world, with annual fees at schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi stretching to AED80,000 ($22,000) in some cases.
Thank you Mr. Alabbar, such bold outlook on this topic coming out of you means a lot for the entire system.
You have hit the right nerve on this issue, at the current state of how the youth is shaping up.
Education is the only solution to carve them into the right direction.
Mr. Abbar has rightly said that the school fees are too high and out of reach of common man. Over last ten years or so, there has been explosion in the number of institutions offering education as a business rather than as a social necessity. Unfortunately, the two sectors which were hitherto considered noble - imparting education and healthcare - are no more so. Greed has taken over these two sectors. Recently, newly appointed CEO of an healthcare outfit said that improving bottom line is his top priority and not offering quality healthcare. There has been mushrooming of private colleges, schools and hospitals - all set with an aim to make quick buck. Sad situation for the society where everything is being measured in terms of profits generated. Gone are the days when these two industries were patronized by philanthropists. We say we are developing as a society but at what cost social cost? Sad indeed!
finally someone important realises and accepts that fees are ludicrous in the UAE.
These comments confuse me. Although it seems that private education can be very expensive in the UAE, all countries have expensive private schools. Furthermore, to my knowledge, free public education exists in the UAE. I also believe that local children can receive subsidies to attend private schools. I do not understand how allegedly overpriced private education of some schools is causing a failure in the public, or private, education system. I am not arguing that the education system is perfect, however, placing the blame at the feet of private schools seem unjustified here.
Finally, Someone has spoken on higher fees in the region. Education is the basic need and should be provided at a very reasonable cost.
I hope Ministry of Education understands this and take up certain action on it
It's all very well to talk about high fees, but private schools have to make a profit. Would Mr Alabbar drop the price of apartments because poor people could not afford them? No, because he would say 'It's a free market'. So if he as a businessman would not drop his price for 'poor people' does he really have the right to criticise other businessmen for acting in the same way?
Thank you! Someone who has a platform to raise this view stood up to it! Now, what can we do to turn this around?
Another point to add - I can not understand the school TRANSPORT FEE - same bus, same company (we all know which one), same location, charging different transportation fees in proportion to school fees. I find this outrageous!
Mall Rents are also far too high
It's corporate greed along with exorbitant cost of running and the exorbitant cost charged for school land imposed by developers
I hope the Ministry of Education opens up their public schools to all nationalities!