There's no escaping the fact, if you are an expat parent with school children in Dubai, you are going to pay school fees.
However, how much you pay and for what exactly, depends on the government regulator— the KHDA and of course the school itself.
Does The School's Rating Effect The Fees?
On the whole, yes they do. In general, the better the school is rated, the more its parents can expect to pay.
Across all curricula, the average fees for an Outstanding school is AED 56,000. The Very Good schools average around AED 43,000, the Good schools around AED 37,500, descending to Weak schools which charge parents an average of AED 16,000.
However, it should be noted there are anomalies, these include The Outstanding rated Indian High School with average fees of AED 9,000, Delhi Private School rated Very Good yet with fees averaging around AED 12,000 and GEMS World Academy rated Good but with a fee average of AED 85,000.
Yes, But How Much Are Tuition Fees In Dubai?
The British curriculum is possibly the most varied in price with fees Ranging from anything between AED 15,000 and AED 100,000 per senior year.
American curriculum schools average around AED 30,000 per year, however, there are some Outstanding rated and costly options. These include, the American School of Dubai (ASD) which costs over AED 80,000 for the senior grades and Dubai American Academy (DAA) at over AED 84,000 for comparable grades.
With out doubt, the most affordable schools in Dubai are those using the Indian curriculum. These schools offer students an early years education with an average cost of AED 9,000 up to AED 15,000 for senior years.
OK, But How Much Can I Expect To Spend In Total?
Educating a child in the UAE does not cheap. And its not just about tuition fees either. There's still after-school activities, school trips, uniforms and a whole lot more each year.
Last year, WhichSchoolAdvisor.com found the cost of an average UAE education from Early Years to Year 13/Grade 12 costs parents around AED 1.3 million per child.
Setting & Raising Fees: How the KHDA Impacts School Fees
The KHDA approves the fees of all schools on launch. Put very simply, the fees have to be appropriate to the services offered.
The KHDA Fee Framework, lays out all details of how this is administered.
The KHDA also regulates how much a school can increase its tuition fees annually. This is based on the Education Cost Index (ECI) and the current KHDA rating.
In 2017, the ECI was 2.4. This then allowed Dubai's schools to increase fees by multiples of this percent, depending on their KHDA rating.
The Not For Profit Schools
Interestingly, the rules are a little different for the Not For Profits, the KHDA says,
"KHDA aims to provide flexibility to not-for-profit schools and embassy schools when submitting their applications for fee increases to KHDA. KHDA will study the details of the application, which will be evaluated in accordance with the justifications offered. The application should include at least the approval of the Board of Trustees of the school and the approval of the Embassy/Consulate (in the case of an embassy school), in addition to evidence of extensive consultation with stakeholders."
What about 'Exceptional Fees?'
Schools CAN apply for special 'Exceptional Fee Increases,' should they require funding for specific improvements. However, it should be noted these exceptional fees (which reach up to 10 percent for Outstanding schools) do come with a hefty set of criteria from the KHDA BEFORE they can be approved.
The School's Fee Policy
Although the KHDA potentially gives each school the option of increasing fees inline with the ECI and the schools rating annually, it remains the right of the school to decide if it wants to increase its fees or not.
Some schools increase regularly, some sporadically and others choose not to, while there are even some which offer impressive 'discounts.'
The Additional Fees— The Not For Profit Schools
Debentures: Almost all of the Not For Profit schools in the UAE charge debentures. These are fees paid to the school which are returned once the student leaves (assuming you comply with the schools terms and conditions for leaving). Each school has different stipulations regarding debentures, but if you are considering a Not For Profit school for your child, find out the details before signing up.
Parents can expect to pay around AED 20,000 per child for Dubai school debentures.
When confirming a place with a new school, the school may charge up to 30% of the school’s tuition fees as an admission fee to confirm that you will accept the place. However, this fee should be deducted from the total tuition fees for the academic year in which the admission is being sought.
The KHDA says of re-registration fees,
"A school may charge up to 10% of the school’s tuition fees as a re-registration deposit to confirm the return of existing students in the new academic year. This deposit should be deducted from the total tuition fees for the academic year in which the admission is being sought."