Ever-increasing school fees are undoubtedly becoming a pain-point for parents in Dubai. With the introduction of VAT and the ever-rising cost of living, the fading era of the big ‘expat package’ and family budgets seeing an inevitable swell – well, it’s making nearly everyone cringe a little.
School fees are steadily creeping up every year – the KHDA has set a 4.8% annual fee increase bar, but that can still add a hefty chunk when you’re talking premium schools and more than one enrolled child. When it comes to education, though, most parents swallow the pill and pick the best of the best for their kids.
Nearly 1 million Dirhams to put one child through a good school in the UAE, you say? “We’ll take it!” say parents, but grudgingly so. British mums, of course expect the best possible school experience for their kids, but whilst there are plenty of rave reviews for teaching staff, heads, facilities and curriculum, for schools across Dubai, unanimous satisfaction is not always the case.
British mums across Dubai have a few concerns that they’re voicing – loud and clear, and are expecting to see some changes brought about for. We’ve put together a few of the commonly heard issues, that we know the authorities are also making note of.
Right at the top of that list is teacher retention. This is a big one. It’s extremely unsettling for students to see their subject teachers change mid-year, especially when it comes to languages and mathematics. Grades suffer, motivation drops – it makes a challenging subject feel impossible to tackle. An article in The National* pins it down to 3 key areas that schools need to focus on to keep teachers on – globally competitive salaries, internationally recognised professional development opportunities and growth-conducive, positive school environments.
Another aspect concerned parents point out is the need for improved SEN departments in some top-tier schools, and the need for more teaching assistants per classroom. With some classes going up to 35 children in a class, some children are losing out on the ‘private’ in private education.
The lack of innovation when it comes to teaching the national language, Arabic, has become a common complaint. Children are studying more than 3 hours a week often studying 9 to 10 years of Arabic through primary and secondary school yet some still can’t manage to hold a conversation at the end of their studies. While language is being addressed at a few different schools (read our blog on Swiss International School Dubai’s remarkable bilingual model here LINK), spoken Arabic across all schools and curriculum still needs a lot more focus and attention.
As it turns out, school holidays stir up quite a discussion, too! The consensus tends to be that there are far too many, and too often. Although the public holidays do, of course, need to be honoured, a lot of the longer breaks like the Eid breaks follow the public sector dates instead of private (mandated by the KHDA). With these longer breaks, and with mid-term downtime, teacher training days and the odd couple of days off, the school year whittles down to about 175 instructional days – slightly lower than the global average for lower secondary schools (183), according to an OECD report.
And to think that the whole race towards the KHDA inspections also fits in during those 175 days! Something that even the little ones are beginning to notice is the schools’ ‘preparation’ mode leading up to an inspection. Makes you wonder if the authorities really get a fair picture of what is going on in a school? Some British mums recommend little or no notice before inspections so that schools are being tested for a true ‘Day in the Life of’.
The list does go on – universal admission procedures and dates across all Dubai schools, limited daily e-mails to parents, more playtime, less homework, less playtime, more homework, after-school classes, more sports and clubs – every child, parent and school has a different fix.
With schools being a private, for-profit affair in Dubai, as parents, we will always be consumers that are looking to point out every scope for improvement, and educators will steadily continue to try to live up to and exceed those expectations.
What is your top concern? What would you like to see changed to enhance your child’s schooling experience in Dubai? We’d love to hear from you!
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