The education sector in UAE is always under discussion and, of late, it’s approved school fee hikes. At the beginning of February, the Dubai Executive Council allowed private schools to increase fees for academic year 2014-15, capping them between five and seven percent.

45% of UAE parents will consider changing schools if tuition fees increase

While school administrators will be happy with the news, our latest survey revealed that over 78 percent of parents disagreed with the fee hike.

We asked more than 650 parents, most parents to one or two children, about the current educational environment in the UAE

An overwhelming 91 percent thought the fees were already high and that an increase would make them seriously consider how much they spent on their children’s education.

And almost half of the parents surveyed said they would consider changing their child’s current school if fees were raised.

[Also read: Dubai private schools ratings 2013-4: Half are good or outstanding]

A third said they would do so only if the increase was significant enough to disrupt their finances and the cost of living in the UAE.

But three-quarters felt the standard of education in the UAE did not match the fees parents were being asked to pay, with 61 percent of them rating the education level only as average.

After inspections carried out by the Dubai School Inspection Bureau, schools rated as “outstanding” have been told they can increase fees by 3.48 percent in 2013-14. Schools rated “good” can increase by 2.61 percent and any rating below (“acceptable” or “unsatisfactory”) can increase fees by 1.74 percent.

If we take an example of an outstanding school with average fees of AED 65,000 a year, a 3.48 percent would set parents back AED 2,262 per year per child – with three children, that comes to AED 6,786 a year. For that reason, carefully compare fees and KHDA ratings of schools in the UAE before selecting a school for your child.

As our survey suggests, there is a gap between what parents believe the quality standard should be and what schools are charging in tuition fees. Even with the government taking steps to cap school fees, many parents say they still have sleepless nights over the cost of their children’s education in the UAE.