Parents felt that the prices are not affordable for middle-income families.
A new education report has revealed what private schools in Dubai consider as 'affordable' tuition, with more than half saying that Year 1 fees should range between Dh18,000 and Dh23,000.
However, the views of the schools have left several parents in shock as they believe these fees would still create "financial chaos" for families with multiple children.
The Dubai Education Report was released on December 10 by Knight Frank, a real-estate consultancy firm that conducted a survey among education service providers representing 58 large, small, branded and local private schools in Dubai. The aim was to measure affordability beyond monetary value and, rather, examine it within the context of distance or time.
A total of 80 per cent of respondents said tuition fees should be less than Dh33,000 for Year 1 and 56 per cent believe it should be in the range of Dh18,000 to Dh23,000.
For Year 7, 77 per cent of schools said fees should be less than Dh41,000 and 44 per cent responded as saying it should range from Dh33,000 to Dh46,000. Meanwhile, for Year 13, 70 per cent believe tuition fees should be equal or less than Dh60,000.
The report said: "The education sector in Dubai is now at a tipping point, with aggressive marketing and tuition fee discounts symptomatic of an oversupply of schools. Pressure is expected to increase with a further 13 schools slated to open this academic year, bringing the total number of private schools in Dubai to 207.
"With this drastic increase in choice, the market is now tipped in favour of consumers who are demanding quality education at lower price points. However, affordability has never been uniformly defined, nor do we know if meeting these demands is possible."
What parents think
Parents who spoke to Khaleej Times felt that these prices are not affordable for middle-income families, who are already struggling to make ends meet to send their children to school.
A mother of two, Madeha Tahir, said: "This will be a big problem. If someone is paying Dh20,000 just for the foundation stage, for two kids it will be Dh40,000. Also, in schools, every other day there is some kind of activity and transportation costs are high, which means yearly costs go up to between Dh50k and Dh60k just for two children. If fees are this high, then our salaries should be based on them. Those who want to pay lower fees end up sacrificing the quality of education."
Another mum of two, Sabah Khalil, said affordable tuition fees should be measured by calculating the average person's salary, expenses and what they already pay for their child's education.
"University fee is more than Dh40,000, so how can schooling be the same? It's not affordable. Once you have three kids and by the time they reach higher education, most families leave and go back to their countries. In Dubai, though, there are cheaper schools, such as in Deira, Oud Metha - they're of lower quality of education but fine. I know lots of people who can't afford such fees so they send their children to schools with lower fees," Khalil said.
A mother of two daughters, Fatima Zeeshan, said she pays Dh11,000 per year for her child's fees and she cannot afford a school with a higher quality of education.
"The fee is too high. As compared to salaries, it is high. Also, the cost of living is getting higher - for house rent, utility bills and VAT. And if the parent has multiple children, then it becomes more difficult. In my point of view, they should introduce the same education system in the West, where education is free until Grade 12," Zeeshan said.
Most kids study in schools near their homes
The Dubai Education Report showed that 53 per cent of a school's students resided within a 5km radius of the campus.
One of the survey's aims was to measure affordable tuition fees in the context of time and distance.
A total of 70 per cent of respondents agreed that they have witnessed a decline in their schools' catchment diameter due to greater choice available.
The report said: "We expect catchment areas to continue reducing, driven by the increase in the number of schools and choices available. It will be what makes the school most attractive, with the exception of schools that offer certain unique selling points (USPs), which can still command a wider radius because they are serving a particular target market.
"However, as competition continues to increase, even these schools will most likely rely more on catchment area than the USP they are offering."
The report suggested that when it comes to new or existing schools that are considering repositioning, they "should invest in undertaking a catchment area analysis to understand population size, income profile, nationality mix, competition and, above all, the requirement of residents, as it will help the school create a value proposition, which in turn will ensure long-term profitability."
"Master-planned communities during their planning phase need to consider the target market for their development. This will help determine the type and size of the school and attract an appropriate education service provider. Empirical evidence suggests that planning for the right school positively affects other real estate offerings by way of improved occupancy and yields," the report added.