Schools in the UAE are attempting to stay attractive to parents with another tuition fee freeze and focusing on opening more mid-range fee schools.
Major schools and school providers in the UAE, such as GEMS, Taaleem, Repton and Foremarke, were participating in this year’s Dubai Schools and Childcare Show, where they showcased their offerings to parents.
The market for premium schools continues to be flat as more “affordable” ones open up in the UAE, offering choices to parents. This has caused many schools to rethink their fee structure in order to ensure longevity.
The Taaleem group which has 11 schools in Dubai, for example, is freezing their fees again for the 2019-2020 academic year, Khaleej Times has learned. “Taaleem is a group of premium quality schools. We don’t have mid or low-tier prices. So, for us, it’s all about maintaining the quality and pricing. We’ve actually held our fees for two years now. Last year, we had the edict from the government to hold fees and we’re actually holding our fees again for next year,” Rosamund Marshall, CEO of Taaleem, told Khaleej Times on the sidelines of the show.
“We’re very price sensitive and we’re aware of the pressures on parents with the increases in cost of living and the introduction of VAT. Considering the fact that we have native-English speaking teachers teaching either American or IB curriculum, most of our schools are reasonably priced and competitive.”
GEMS Education, the largest education provider in the UAE with over 50 schools, opened four new ‘mid-range fees’ schools in the 2018-2019 academic year, including the GEMS Vertus School, GEMS Founder’s School in Dubai and an international curriculum school in Abu Dhabi and an Indian curriculum one in Sharjah. Fees for these schools range from Dh22,000 to Dh42,500.
Brendan Law, vice-president of British Cluster Lead at GEMS Education, told Khaleej Times that the market for premium schools remains flat as demand for mid-market schools by parents continues to grow.
“For the last few years, we’ve always planned for growth. We’ve increased the number of staff, we’ve been looking to build and develop schools and expand on the number of schools. That’s been the case for the past five years or so,” Law said. “Now, there is a flattening – all you do is you stop building new schools. There is no point in building new premium schools right now. We’ve been building mid-market ahead of the game. We saw this 18 months ago, which is why we’ve gone and invested in schools such as Founder’s. That’s a very wise investment because that’s where the need and demand has been.”
David Cook, principal of Repton School Dubai, said that schools need to start training and developing their teachers in order to stay ahead in the market. “Repton decided to reduce fees about 18 months ago and we were the first school to do that. And then the government imposed a school fees freeze. I guess what they’re talking about is that we have to make sure schools are affordable to parents. Having said that, all schools, of course, still want to employ good teachers and the problem internationally is teacher shortage. Most schools will tell you that 60 to 70 per cent of their costs go on recruiting staff and staff salaries. Parents naturally want us to recruit the best teachers. That’s quite tricky with more schools opening. So, schools cannot just expect to go on a financial arms race. What they’ve actually got to do is develop their staff.”
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