Top-ranked private schools will be allowed to increase their fees by 6 per cent, the emirate’s education authority announced yesterday.
The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) said its new fee structure would be based on school inspection grades and an “educational cost index” calculated by the Dubai Statistics Centre.
That cost index, not unlike a calculated rate of inflation for all schools, has been set at 3 per cent.
Schools rated in the Acceptable and Unsatisfactory category during inspections are allowed to increase their fees by 3 per cent, while schools with a Good ranking can raise fees by 4.5 per cent. The Outstanding schools automatically qualify for a 6 per cent increase.
The authority said it would consider applications from Good and Outstanding schools that could justify the need for additional increases – such as not-for-profit and embassy schools and those improving educational infrastructure. Schools that provide special needs services will also be able to apply for a higher fee.
The new framework was drawn up by the KHDA in association with Department of Economic Development, Department of Finance, Dubai Chamber of Commerce, Dubai Real Estate Corporation, Dubai Statistics Centre and the emirate’s Executive Council.
The fee-rise framework was agreed after a two-year emirate-wide freeze on increases at all private schools in the emirate.
Within the new framework, schools may charge up to 10 per cent of tuition fees as a deposit during the re-registration of existing pupils and up to 30 per cent of tuition fees as an admission fee to secure a new place.
“This framework prioritises the interests of students and parents,” said Mohammed Darwish, chief of the Regulations and Compliance Commission at KHDA. “It encourages investment in the education sector by allowing schools to develop long-term growth plans, as well as motivating existing schools to improve the quality of education they offer.”
Schools granted an increase will not be able to seek one in the next three years, and any school less than three years old will not be granted an increase.
The parent of a child at the Dubai Modern High School, which recently received an Outstanding grade, said that while the increase might seem small it was unjustified for schools that already have a high fee structure.
“It was only a few years back that the school was allowed to increase the fee by 90 per cent,” said the mother. “This will definitely be a pinch for the parents after that increase.”
Fees at Dubai Modern High currently range between Dh26,756 and Dh39,670. A 6 per cent increase would put fees between Dh28,361 and Dh42,050.
The parent said it was a disadvantage that the school had receive the highest marks if an increase was the outcome.
“And I don’t see the need, because between then and now there does not seem to be any drastic change in the school’s efforts to justify the increase.”
Heads of struggling schools were disappointed by the fee increases allotted to them, saying these would not support their development plans.
Shah Shamsuddin Usmani Tabrez, principal of the Emirates English School, which received an Acceptable grade this year, said its financial situation hindered its progress.
“There is inflation and that is adversely affecting our school budget,” he said. “A 3 per cent increase does not do anything for us.”
He said attrition was the school’s major problem and it would continue if he could not offer better pay packages to teachers.
“Their pay is so low that they are right in looking for other jobs. And getting qualified teachers on these salaries is near to impossible.”
The school, which has fees of between Dh3,130 and Dh4,750, urgently needed to upgrade its IT system, he said. “I will put in another fee request with our justifications and hope the authority will support us.”
Clive Pierrepont, the director of Taaleem schools, said the system was transparent but some ambiguities had to be addressed. “At face value, linking to a benchmark index seems sensible,” he said. “However, the issue is, how this index is enumerated and whether in fact international factors are taken into account.”
He said teachers’ salaries accounted for 80 per cent of the costs at international schools, and the teachers needed to be hired globally.
“The majority of factors that influence our costs are global and not local,” he added.