Educating child in UAE costs Dh1 million, says study
Based on the cost of education of 2 years at pre-school, 6 years each at primary and secondary schools, and 3 years at a UK university
A new report on the cost of education in the UAE says families here will pay close to Dh1 million to educate a child, over a period of 17 years. Many parents agree that it is their biggest financial tie-down after rent.
New insight from Zurich Middle East has found that the cost of putting one child through education, from pre-school through to university, costs approximately Dh938,599.
The report was conducted to raise awareness and highlight the importance of financial planning for a child's education in the UAE. So if you have a family or are planning to start one, forget budgeting for yearly vacations, as saving for tuition fees should be on the top of that list.
Speaking to Khaleej Times, father-of-two Ravi Shanker said he's not surprised with the findings at all. "I have one child in KG2 and another in pre KG. I am paying approximately Dh100,000 per year, and for us, it is the biggest expense after rent."
Calling the tuition fees "too high", he said although the quality of education is good here, it still weighs heavy on the bank balance. "I do not receive any education allowance from my firm, and the children's tuition fees often increases more than our salary increments do. We have had to reduce many household expenses and we avoid travel out of the UAE."
The report's figures are based on the total cost of education of two years at pre-school, six years at primary school, six years at secondary school and three years at a UK university.
It's primary and secondary education that proves the costliest for parents, averaging at about Dh528,486 per child - a slight increase on last year's figures.
For Shanker, forking out Dh48,000 per year for pre KG is "just the start". "We will be hit with heavy fees for the higher classes. And this excludes other expenses for books, trips and uniforms," which according to the report could increase by up to 40 per cent for top tier schools.
Father-of-two Sabah M.A. said he pays approximately Dh35,000 annually for his two children. "Their school offers higher standards, but at comparatively lower costs. There are some similar schools which cost a lot more than what I am paying."
Although he said educating his children is one of the biggest investments he can make, it is still a catch 22 situation for him. "Education is the most valuable gift and investing in our kids' future is important, but the challenge is the increasing cost of education. In the UAE, once a child completes his/her schooling and university, the total cost will be a minimum of Dh750,0000 and can reach up to Dh1 million."
But for mother-of-two Iram Rizvi, a university education for her two children is the dream, but the prospect of shelling out so much is daunting. "To tell you frankly, we haven't given university so much as a thought yet. But I guess we need to now, especially after reading today's report."
Rizvi said she pays more than Dh34,000 each year for her two children, who are in Year 3 and Year 6, but the payback is worth it. "The children's holistic development is taken care of brilliantly at the school. I feel the tuition fees are pocket-friendly and we plan out our other expenditures around it. With good planning, we can look ahead to a smooth academic session," she said.
Commenting on the insight - which was garnered from customer feedback, in-depth research and collaboration with an education consultancy here - Walter Jopp, CEO at Zurich Middle East told Khaleej Times it is important to start planning early.
"The most important message for parents here is the sooner you start saving, the better. From a personal point of view, this should start soon after you have children. That way you can save often, which is a good approach."
Though a recent report from HSBC revealed that many parents are willing to face severe financial burdens to provide a secure education for their children, Jopp said if you start early and get the right financial advice, "you needn't get into debt".
"Whenever there's a major life change, that is the time to restructure financially."
Parents willing to get into debt for better education
In today's society, education is not a luxury but a necessity; so much so, many parents are willing to take on more financial burden to offer the best opportunities to their children.
"Parents are obviously ready to sacrifice in order to provide their children the best avenues. They believe that a strong education will give them a boost in a competitive job market," Gifford Nakajima regional head of regional wealth development for Mena region, HSBC, told Khaleej Times.
Nakajima said HSBC's cost of education research from 2016 showed that 70 per cent of parents end up relying on their daily income to pay for their children's education, "with nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) willing to go into debt to afford education costs".
"A large majority of parents in our Value of Education study, (75 per cent), say that paying for their children's education makes it difficult to keep up with other financial commitments - those with children in university feel this more acutely (82 per cent) than those with children in primary school (72 per cent)."
Therefore, parents should put financial planning at the centre of educational aspiration, he said.
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