Parents are crying foul over “new exam fees” at a Dubai school that is increasing tuition fees from next school year.
The Westminster School, a private British curriculum school in Al Ghusais run by Gems Education, told parents in a letter dated June 25 that it will charge Dh475 per subject for grades nine and higher, and Dh150 per subject for grade six in exam fees. No further details on the exam fees were available in the letter.
One parent feared this meant grade nine students who take eight subjects, for example, will have to pay Dh3,800 on top of their new tuition fees of Dh8,459 – equal to 45 per cent of tuition.
However, the school told XPRESS in a statement that the exam fees were not new and meant only for board examinations.“All international schools charge fees for board examinations separate to the main fees. At the Westminster School it is a charge of Dh475 per exam, per student, which is far cheaper than those charged by the British Council,” school principal Neville Sherman said in a statement.
“This fee has not been increased since September 2009… These fees are primarily used to pay the examination boards who charge for the papers, marking them, tabulating the results and doing any rechecks we ask them to do. We also pay teachers for vigilating [sic] the exams.”Parents said there are no board exams in grades six, nine or 11, adding students take British IGCSE (O Level) exams in grade 10, and GCE exams in grade 12 (AS Level) and grade 13 (A Level).
“The school should clarify these points in an e-mail to parents,” said the parent, who did not want to be named.
The school is raising tuition fees by three per cent for the coming school year in September after the Dubai government allowed officially-rated “acceptable” schools to increase annual tuition fees by three per cent maximum.
However, parents alleged the exam fees were only a way around the government limit on tuition fees that’s monitored by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA). “What’s the point of the KHDA tuition fee rules if schools are getting away with charging so much in other fees? What are these new exam fees for, didn’t students sit for exams before?” said a father of a ninth grader.
Another parent of two school goers in grades three and nine, added: “No explanation or details about the exam fees were given in the letter. ”
The letter stated that the school needs to make “continuous investment” to deliver “high quality education”. Examples of investment cited were new furniture, school-wide wireless internet and new labs. A parent said these “are basic expectations from schools today, they don’t guarantee good education”.