School fees rising? Here’s how to cope

School fees rising? Here’s how to cope
10 June 2013

The new ruling by the KHDA, that schools with an 'Outstanding' rating can only raise their fees by a maximum 6% for the 2013/14 year, while those rated ‘Good’ are allowed a 4.5% increment, and the ‘Acceptable’ schools are allowed 3% hikes, has actually made our future financial forecasts easier to digest.

At least we now know where we stand – even if it is more expensive. Here are a few things you can do to ease the discomfort of the education budget.

Register with schools as soon as possible  

This seems extreme to the new parent, but getting your child on a school waiting list as a newborn, could well save you a heap of stress and cash later on. The best schools in the UAE aren’t actually the most expensive ones. But because they are good, they have the longest waiting lists. Basically, getting your child registered as soon as you can could literally save you a fortune later on.

Hold back on nursery

The trend here is to put your children into nursery as soon as they can walk. But it’s an unnecessary expense – especially if you are a mother who can work part time and manage with live-in help, or afford not to work at all while your babies are young. Nursery fees, term on term, are as expensive – if not more so than primary school fees – and get this, most parenting experts agree that while nursery does no harm, it certainly doesn’t put your child streets ahead of his or her peers who haven’t attended. Just a single term at nursery before big school, is enough to ease the majority of children into the routine. Look at it this way; you’ll be paying for their education until they’re at least 21. Why start before you have to?

Negotiate fee payments

Finding three large payments every year is tough. We don’t all have AED40,000+ hanging around in our bank accounts in September – especially if the summer has been costly. So, talk to your child’s school and ask them if they will be prepared to negotiate monthly school fee payments. If you can cut down big chunks into manageable bites and work them into your monthly budget, they don’t seem so scary anymore.

Think long term

If you haven’t yet started a family, but know it’s on the cards, start up an education fund now. Whether it’s a high interest account that you diligently tuck AED1,000 into every month, or a slow-burn fund that will mature and pay out once the huge college fees hit, at least it’s something to fall back on. The fact is that prices rise here with frightening speed here. Be prepared for that.

Shop around

We love the fact that you can now compare all school fee prices on It makes life so much easier when you’re considering the education packages. Don’t just look at fees though, consider location too. If an attractive school with lower fees catches your eye, but is in a difficult location, you’ll end up spending either a fortune on school transport (an additional average of Dhs1,000 per month, per child) or precious drive time and money on petrol and Salik getting to and from the school twice a day. Are you struggling to pay the school fees? Perhaps you’ve hit on more solutions. If so, tell us about them.



  • ConsumerWatch

    Some wise advice, thank you Joanna - and of course it is not just the school fees that keep going up it is the extra curriculum activities and associated costs too as this article in Emirates 24/7 indicates that according to one study: "these expenses include school shoes and uniforms, school trips, lunches, craft markets, book fairs, charitable donations, after-school activities (and even) presents for teachers." 

    The article says one parent “estimates that she spends an extra Dh15,000 on her four-year-old daughter’s education on top of the Dh23,400 she is charged as school fees.

  • joanna

    That's very true ConsumerWatch - but actually, I often find that parents are their own worst enemies when it comes to activities.

    Lots of schools run free classes which parents should make use of, and some children are literally 'activitied out' with something scheduled every day of the week. Parenting experts do advise that kids take no more than two extra-curricular activities per week - otherwise it really is too much for them.

    And, if your child wants to take part in an expensive hobby - say horse riding or sailing etc, this should be limited again - and perhaps be the only hobby they concentrate on, until they either decide they don't want to do it anymore, or want to take it to the next level. There really is no need to spend another Dhs15,000 per year on activities on top of the school fees unless your child is a prodigy and requires the additional lessons to nurture their extraordinary talent. 

    I also think the simple things in life, like taking a trip to the park and kicking a ball around - or learning how to use a skateboard etc, or even just riding their bikes with friends, are very undervalued. Studies show that kids need down time and active play, not even more expensive, scheduled classes. 

    In terms of uniform etc, most schools have great secondhand shops where you can stock up on everything from shoes and PE kits to sunhats etc. And expenses for school trips and craft markets can be limited too, and are a great way to teach your kids a lesson in how much things cost, and why we can't always have everything.

    I certainly sympathise with anyone struggling to pay the rising fees though - it's not easy at all.

  • Colin

    Just saw that school bus fees to one private school in Dubai more than doubled from Dhs 2,400 to Dhs 5,000 per year. Wonder how many people this impacts and if it will spread to other schools.  

  • joanna

    That's tough. It's actually a reasonably cheap service though as I know of schools that charge Dhs1,000+ per child, per month (aroundDhs8,000 per year). Very expensive if you have more than one to send on the bus.

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