Special report: Are cheap, remote tuition classes offered from outside UAE legal?

Some parents have reported falling victim to scams related to online tutoring



by

Afkar Ali Ahmed

Published: Sun 30 Jan 2022, 11:05 AM

Last updated: Sun 30 Jan 2022, 10:16 PM

A new market for remote private tuitions, managed by people from outside the country, has emerged in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Parents say anonymous people have communicated with them from Pakistan, India, the US and a few Arab countries. Some have fallen victims to scams related to online tutoring, which became widespread ever since the first academic semester started.

Several parents have reported receiving SMS or WhatsApp messages from strangers. They promote teachers who specialise in all subjects and are knowledgable about the curriculum. They then claim to provide discounted services, not costing more than $40 (Dh146), for a single two-hour lesson.

The service providers also ask parents if they want a teacher to come home so they can assign someone who's already in the country. Most promote private tuition classes for math and English, and target students in the UAE as well as other Gulf countries, such as Qatar.

What the ads say

Khaleej Times recently monitored a number of advertisements for teachers outside the country.

The ads highlighted teachers' professional competence, educational experience and knowledge of the curriculum in the UAE. They also expressed a willingness to provide private lessons at reasonable rates.

One of the ads says "sign up for free", but when parents go to do so, they are asked to enter their credit card details so they can access three trial sessions.

Cheap rates attract parents

Umaima Hussein and Maha Al Taweel, parents of students studying in the American and British curricula, respectively, said they were attracted by the ads because the prices were reasonable.

However, they later discovered the remote tuition classes were scams.

"They offered a free trial when we signed up, but they asked us to make payments of $50 using credit cards," the parents said. "We made the payments and they disappeared, but they continue to withdraw the amount every month until we informed the bank and blocked the cards."

Savita Kumar, a parent of a student at an Indian private school, said the promoters had contacted her on WhatsApp, claiming they offer virtual lessons for "the cheapest prices". They said their rates wouldn't exceed Dh146, while prices within the country could be up to Dh250, a difference of 77 per cent.

However, not all parents think the cheap tuition classes are too good to be true. Rashid Al Kutbi said he believes in the seriousness of the lessons offered and that students could benefit from them.

Another parent, Al Taj Mustafa, said the local private tutoring market became too expensive, especially around the time exams were scheduled to begin. The remote tuition classes, however, were being offered for Dh100 or even less.

Ministry of Education urges caution

The Ministry of Education (MoE) urged parents not to deal with unidentified people who promote private lessons from outside the country.

A top official at the Department of Private Education at MoE warned students and parents against the unregulated market for private lessons, especially those run by unidentified people who do not submit documents that prove their academic and professional qualifications and competencies.

Such people's lack of knowledge of the local curricula could negatively affect students' performance in exams.

The official also confirmed that MoE and the teacher's charter forbids teachers working in schools to offer private tuition classes. Those who violate the ministry's laws will be terminated.

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The ministry allocates private lessons in all educational subjects in most schools, free of charge, to help reduce the burden on students' families.

Police cases

Sharjah Police said they received a number of complaints related to educational scams across various police stations in the emirate.

A police official urged families not to respond to text messages or calls from strangers outside the country who promote such services. The police also warned parents against providing their credit card details online or to unknown parties.


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