The scale of the problem is evidenced by two further findings in the survey, namely that one third of parents admit that they have paid fees late while 20 percent of respondents have had to take out bank loans to pay outstanding fees. Parents of all major curricula across the UAE participated in the survey with 1,072 respondents in total.
“It’s clearly great news that the UAE has returned to rude economic health,” said James Mullan, co-founder, WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, “but that comes at a cost. For parents the cost includes increased household bills and with school fees consuming a large part of disposable income the level of concern is alarming.”
Parents were mostly happy with their treatment by banks when applying for loans. In two thirds of cases banks have been helpful in providing finances, but in 37% of cases - for one reason or another - bank debt has not proved to be the solution parents have needed. Parents were, however, broadly dismissive of so-called ‘education loans’ which were perceived to be exactly the same as personal loans but were simply badged differently for PR effect.
Schools would find strong support if they embraced technology to facilitate payment, according to the survey. Only eight percent of parents currently use online banking to settle their school bills, as opposed to 32% who settle their bills with cash, and 34% with cheques. Twenty three percent of respondents use their credit cards.
More people would pay online if they could however. Only 28% of respondents currently attend a school with an online payment option. Where parents are given the opportunity to use such a facility, 63% of them use it to pay all fees, and another 4% use it "infrequently”.
When it comes to benchmarking the performance of schools in the UAE against international standards there are a few areas of concern. In total 42% of respondents believe education in the UAE is the same quality as that in their home country. A further 16% believe it is better than the quality of education in their home country. That leaves 44% of parents in the UAE who believe the quality of education in the country is not up to international standards.
One in 6 parents are happy with the school their children attend if their company picks up the bill. This drops to almost one in 7 for parents who pay a contribution, and just one in 9 for those who have to look after the bill themselves
However while picking up the tab has an effect on attitudes, a bigger effect on satisfaction levels comes from previous experience outside of the UAE - or not as the case may be. The happiest parents are those whose children went to state schools that were free - with 16% of those who have experienced free education saying they are happy with UAE schools.
The figure drops very slightly to 14.5% for parents of children who have not gone to schools outside of the country before.
However, the percentage of happy parents drops to a miniscule 4.1% of parents for those whose children went to private schools elsewhere. The findings suggests UAE schools are perceived as a marked improvement on state schools outside of the UAE, but do not yet compare with private schools outside of the country in the opinion of UAE-based parents.
Parents whose children went to private schools outside of the UAE are the most unhappy - one in three saying they are unsatisfied with the schooling of their child.
The curriculum, unsurprisingly, makes a significant different to overall attitudes, and there is a considerable amount of data to explore here. However, top line the most satisfied parents are those that attend either IB, or mixed GCSE and IB schools, followed - with some degree of separation, by pure play UK GCSE and A Level schools.
Just 4.4% of parents with children attending Indian schools say they are happy with schooling, and almost 4 in 10 say they are unhappy. However the unhappiest are those parents attending Arab schools where almost 7 out of 10 parents say they are unhappy with the schools their children attend.
Extra-curricular - but not optional
UAE Teachers blamed for poor performance
UAE School Fees, Performance - Who is satisfied?
Schools make payment easy, but could make it easier
School Fees driving UAE parents into debt
One in 3 UAE parents admit to late school fee payment
9/10 parents claim financial stress from school fees
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I am a parent of 3 and my kids until last year went to Chuoiefat International school of Sharjah. The increasing fee hike forced me to change my kids to Dubai Modern Education School which gave me sleepless nights for weeks. We are in a lot of financial pressure and would hope that the fees would not increase this year for schools as well as universities. It's scary to survive and provide education for our children here as we do not want to get further into debt.