Homeschooling catching up in UAE, helps parents save 50-75%
Homeschooling is on the rise globally for reasons like affordability, personalised learning and flexibility in terms of schedule and location.
An increasing number of UAE parents are homeschooling their children as it is a more affordable option for them.
Khaleej Times spoke to four parents who are paying half of the tuition fees, or even 75 per cent less, of what a regular school would cost in the country.
These parents are choosing to homeschool their children not only because it helps them avoid the hefty tuition fees of the UAE schools, but also so they can focus on what they feel are more important subjects for their child's talents and future.
One parent, Ruby Brar, homeschools her seven-year-old Vansh Brar, in Grade 3, and pays only Dh300 for a homeschooling website subscription, which offers a British curriculum education. She is a stay-at-home mum, who teaches her son herself, by printing off study material online.
"Financially, things had started to heat up because there was a fee hike every year. From FS 1 to year 3 we have had a fee hike every year, which made it very clear to us that most schools here are nothing but a successful business model," Brar said. "Homeschooling (fees) has many options. Some are using free online programmes and some are using paid. We are using paid and it's very minimal compared to what we paid all these years.
"I had my older son in the best and most expensive British school in my community. When I first took the tour of the school, I wished I had studied there. It was an amazing facility with corridors filled with exorbitant artworks. Today, when I look back, I realise that no matter how fancy it is - it's a school. Kids are expected to be there at a certain time and do all things in a certain way and follow instructions. As long as you follow instructions, you are a good student and a good future factory worker. You don't need to do things your way as that may disrupt the flow of class."
Brar said ever since she started homeschooling her son, he has been able to place a greater focus on subjects they feel will help him more in the future, such as Math, French language, Science and English (and soon they will be starting with social studies).
Another parent, A. Alshaqra, used to pay Dh15,000 to Dh18,000 for each of her two sons. Now, she pays just Dh12,000 for both together - saving the family nearly Dh20,000 per year.
"School fees nowadays make no sense," Alshaqra said, mum to a 13-year-old and 10-year-old. "I chose an online curriculum that is considered costly but it's less than half of what I used to pay for school.
"Since my kids are in an online system they have teachers who correct their exams and review their projects, so we don't have a problem with that either.
"Now, that studying time is actually focused on proper learning, they have so much more time to do other activities. They made friends in different group circles, such as karate and swimming."
An American mum of two kids, Maryam Ismail, said she paid just Dh10,000 last year for a full "curriculum box set" that her children receive, which includes books, stationery items and the necessary study material for the year.
Ismail, who uses a different US state curriculum for her kids, said what she has paid much less than what she would have to had to pay for regular schooling in the country.
"I have chosen homeschooling instead of the private schools available in the UAE simply because within my area and price bracket, I was not getting my money's worth," Ismail said.
"I found that my kids have a better and more inclusive education. By that I mean not just the three R's - reduce, reuse and recycle - but also history and extras like calligraphy, video production and research skills that go beyond Google and Wikipedia."
Ismail believes that universities "seek out" children who have been homeschooled. She also feels that homeschooled kids make a more "diverse set of friends", retain knowledge of different groups of kids and adults, as well as an increased overall awareness of global issues. "I have found that many universities not only accept homeschooled students, they seek them out. However, there is a sticky point when it comes to finishing. Many universities and colleges require that students take the GED test. It is just an extra step but it is worth it. The problem is, some universities in the UAE are not up to speed and will not accept any online school curriculum, which many homeschoolers depend on," Ismail said.
"In the end it is about having solid record of work done and courses taken and packaging it in a way that is acceptable to universities."
Meanwhile, another American parent of a 15-year-old son and an eight-year-old daughter, pays Dh5509 to Dh9,182 per grade.
"Apart from the cost factor, our kids are more rested. They have been to more excursions and day trips in one year as compared to how many they would conventionally in a lifetime. This helps them learn more about the outside world," the parent said.
After all, homeschooling is not a bad idea, makes good sense
Isabelle Gallagher (Education Consultant, IQ Modern Learning Center and General Manager, Homeschool Global ME)
Homeschooling is on the rise globally for reasons like affordability, personalised learning and flexibility in terms of schedule and location. It is also catching on the UAE due to similar reasons.
More families are opting for home education, where quality would not be sacrificed due to affordability.
Private schools seem to be the only option for expatriates in the region. School tuition fees range from Dh5,000 up to Dh100,000 depending on the quality. That is without the additional expenses on uniforms, transportation, extra-curricular activities and lunch allowance. The rising cost of living, families on single income, and with companies doing away with schooling allowances, some households struggle to keep their children in a "good school". Therefore, more families are opting for affordable alternatives such as home education, where the quality of education would not need to be sacrificed due to affordability.
Families who homeschool, are able to do so on a budget of Dh2,000 up to Dh30,000 depending on the programme of choice. This has the potential to account for a savings of between Dh3,000 and Dh70,000 per child, per year.
Apart from affordability, the common factor amongst most parents choosing the homeschooling route is their dissatisfaction with the current quality of education versus the fees paid. One of the benefits of the home education is personalised learning whereby students are offered an individualised approach specific to their preexisting knowledge, learning needs, styles and competencies. In place of large, anonymous class lectures is a devoted time and attention helping students achieve fluency and mastery through one-on-one tutoring tailored to the student's learning requirements. In such an environment, students could take ownership of their learning and achieve mastery at their own pace.
Furthermore, many families in the UAE are in transit, in between regions and are uncertain of their length of stay in the Middle East. Homeschooling also offers flexibility in terms of the start and end dates throughout the year.
If a family arrives the UAE in between a school year, their chances of getting placements in a good school is limited or close to none. Additionally, children can learn no matter where the location. Whether students are children of pilots, businessmen or those based in two or three countries around the world, learning and education may not be disrupted. In homeschooling, the world is your classroom.
We encourage first time home educators to connect with locally based service providers, like Homeschool Global, who are able to provide academic support, guidance and training to equip parents for their homeschool journey. These providers offer accreditation which gives parents a "safety net" knowing that their children's work will be recognised in the event they need to return to traditional school. They also provide innovative services which aim substitute the lack of traditional school infrastructure, with group extracurricular activities, sports and learn groups in which parents and children are able to connect and socialize regularly.
Home education continues to make a lot of sense, to a lot of people with today's globalisation and information age.
Do you think homeschooling is beneficial?
Harshita Shah-The Indian High School, Dubai
"Homeschooling is a concept where kids don't attend actual schools and get tutored by a teacher at home itself. Peer-pressure is just a theory in their life, which isn't practical to them as they don't find themselves in such a situation. These students may have an edge over others because their teachers may stimulate their non-academic interests, which may be suppressed by schools. But, the kids are not prepared enough to face a new environment and adjust to it easily."
Sarah Ronad-JSS International School
"Homeschooling is a growing phenomenon in today's world. Parents feel that they can provide a better learning experience for their children than a local school can. In my point of view, homeschooling is not the right system for a child to grow up in. It doesn't enhance a child's social growth and ability to socialise well. They tend to be shy and more on the quieter side. Furthermore, they are more exposed to certain stances and may refuse to adhere to others' perspectives."
Kristi Reeni Joies-Our Own English High School, Sharjah
"I am completely against homeschooling. Students do not interact much with the society. Homeschooling may also result in a lack of discipline and reduces the opportunities to learn from a diverse range of teachers with different backgrounds. Teachers have their own experiences and methods of teaching; this enhances the student's learning experience. Healthy competitions make the students grow. Schools have extra curricular activities which in turn boosts up the child."
KT Nano Edit
Wholesome human beings
Education is not just about studies and books, it is also about developing wholesome human beings. In this context the concept of home schooling can raise some eyebrows. But when we find successful and compassionate homeschooled people around those concerns can be laid to rest. Parents here take the onus of training their children full time. But it is also their responsibility to see that their children are able to blend with their peer groups so that they are well equipped to deal with the world.
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