Parents may or may not opt for extracurricular activities
Picture for illustrative purposes
According to education experts, learning does not happen only in classrooms.
Many city schools expressed their views on the topic of extra expenses increasing the parents' burden. School authorities believe parents should decide if they do not want their child to take part in trips or other activities, and that the school must provide an alternative programme for those who cannot or do not wish to participate.
Julian Williams, Principal of Springdales School Dubai, said, "Springdales, like many schools, finds that it may be necessary to charge parents for 'extras' that are not included in tuition fees. Some of these are mandatory, e.g. the cost of international benchmark tests. The type and cost of these vary, but the school has a duty to inform parents about them and explain their value. These are also included in the School-Parent contract. It is imperative that all students participate in these, since they form a part of how student attainment and progress are measured. The KHDA prescribes the type and range of tests used".
According to education experts, learning does not happen only in classrooms. Applying learning to real-life contexts, on the field, adds an important dimension. But school groups can often take advantage of large discounts unavailable to small groups and families. Schools do need cover the cost of trips, which can include transport, additional insurance, catering, admission charges etc, but avoid unreasonable cost plus mark-ups. Williams remarked on this, saying: "Extra expense on textbooks, graduation robes, costumes, instruments, calculators, electronic notebooks etc do not necessarily form part of day-to-day costs. Parents should be able to insist that these are itemised. Some curricula recommend particular brands, but the school should justify these.
"The increasing demand by schools for students to 'Bring Your Own Device' (BYOD) to school to support 1:1 IT learning support in the classroom can be offset by schools negotiating favourable discounts with suppliers, but schools should be able to offer a range of platforms to families when requesting this kind of investment".
With the KHDA setting a cap on private school fees, it is likely that schools will seek to review large-scale IT investment projects without seeking partnership with parents. Parents should be able to insist on transparency and good-value for money. Williams added: "'Hidden costs' and generalisations such as 'Book Fee' or 'Educational Materials' may be accounting devices to levy a fee without accountability. This is not to say that schools are being irresponsible or that every 'extra' means profit. Margins can be very tight, but schools have an obligation to explain the rationale for 'extras' and ensure that students are not disadvantaged by parents unable to pay for them. Fundraisers and partnered sponsorships is a strategic approach to raising funding for projects to reduce the burden".