Those UAE officials tasked with assessing whether schools can put up their fees, and by how much, are very much between a rock and a hard place.
On one side are schools which claim they are working with rising costs, and shrinking margins. On the other side of the equation are the parents, living with the same price inflation, but often a static household income.
Pain clearly exists on both sides of the equation, and with the UAE economy returning to robust health, pressure is unlikely to do anything save squeeze further. In the WhichSchoolAdvisor.com School Fees and Financing survey the results are unambiguous - almost 9 out of 10 parents (87%) claim school fees cause financial stress for themselves and their family.
Not coincidentally, 5% of respondents have their school fees paid by their companies, with another 15% getting various levels of contribution.
That stress has implications across the survey's findings. When we run a filter we can see it affects almost every response - even in areas there seems no direct, rational link. If education providers want parents to think their schools are better, simple: Lower costs. Parents are more satisfied with the quality of education, and logically, believe schools are better value, as financial stress is alleviated.
Many schools will say in private that some parents have significant difficulties paying school fees, and all schools will have a percentage of non-payers - although this percentage can vary significantly and affects some schools considerably more than others.
Interestingly the least scope for raising costs are with schools usually identified as those with the most prosperous parents - British and Western schools. Conversely, the highest percentage of parents who do not feel schools are a source of financial stress are those found in Indian schools - usually the most protected when it comes to raising school fees.
Mid-level UK curriculum based schools are said to have the most issues with non-payment.
Given 9/10 parents feel financial stress, it should be noted that this is a margins game. In total 82.2% of parents at Indian schools still say they are under financial stress, with 18% saying they are not. That, however falls to just 6% who say they are not under financial stress at British schools, and just 4% at U.S. curriculum schools.
This clearly makes some sense. Indian schools cost a fraction of the fees of UK or US curricula schools. This is tied into the purchasing power of the demographic of each school - in general Indian expats are less well paid than Western counterparts. However, while there are many Indian parents that could not afford a Repton, and Indian schools need to serve this majority, there is no doubt a minority could.
This upper middle class Indian family benefits very much from the low cost base of Indian schools, and the UAE salary they draw.
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