The number of parents with itchy feet who have been thinking about moving their child from their current school is in falling - but it will still be a worryingly high percentage for any institution looking for stability.
This will be especially so with the number of new schools opening in the UAE. In Dubai alone there are currently 37,000 available school places according to the latest KHDA figures - see infographic below. While that represents choice and opportunity for parents, for schools it is 37,000 cases of economic opportunity lost - or potential loss.
In 2013, 53% of parents had at some time thought about changing the school of their child. This has fallen, quite sharply, to 46.6% in 2015, with 53.4% of parents now claiming not to have thought about moving their child/ren for their current school.
For schools looking for a stable business environment the trend will be welcome - but the high numbers who have thought about it will continue to give owners and administrators considerable cause for concern.
As in 2013, the percentage changes during the course of the child’s progress through schooling. Middle school seems most vulnerable with parents increasingly anxious as their children reach the last mile of education - the propensity to change school rises as a child moves from KG (45%), Primary (48%) to Middle (53%), before dropping sharply at secondary level (39%).
Without international benchmarks it is impossible to say how this compares against other markets, but we believe it would be high for the following reasons.
Firstly, this is an open private education market where a parent CAN change the schooling of their child in a way that would not be possible in other environments where an education authority would need to be convinced as to the reason why.
Secondly, the UAE is in a period of flux. There are a huge number of new schools opening, and therefore new possibilities for parents.
Thirdly, there are a lot of unknowns in the UAE education sector, and quality is not always a known entity prior to actually experiencing a school first hand.
One very clear finding from the survey is that schools that are performing have less to worry about.
There is a very high correlation between the top considerations for choosing a school - happiness or academic performance for example, and parents thinking about alternatives - or not as the case may be. The below graph measures itchy feet versus satisfaction with perceptions of academic attainment - which itself correlates with capacity available varying depending upon a school's KHDA rating (see infographic above).
Where parents are satisfied with academic performance very few parents think about changing schools (22%). Where parents are dissatisfied with the academic performance they almost universally have thought about other schools (96%)…
This second graph measures propensity to be looking for another school, and how much children look forward to going to school. If the child is happy, so too are parents.
Finally these factors, to a degree, translate into differences in curricula.
British schools have the most stable stakeholders - only 39.6% of parents have thought of switching their school, compared to 56.1% of parents attending US curriculum schools, or 58.4% of parents of children attending Indian curriculum schools.
This is NOT because of the curriculum per se. It cannot be ignored that England and Wales based curricula schools are, in general terms (and obviously with exceptions), the highest performing schools across the UAE.
Notes: The WhichSchoolAdvisor.com 2015 School Survey was completed by 676 families from across the UAE. The majority of respondents came from Dubai, then Abu Dhabi and finally Sharjah. Outside these three emirates the responses were not sufficient to be statistically significant. WhichSchoolAdvisor.com is keeping the survey running with the aim of being able to benchmark each school against a UAE norm.