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One in three UAE Parents Admit to Late School Fee Payment

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Given the high levels of financial stress that UAE parents claim to be suffering, it is perhaps a non-surprise that payments are not always made on time.

Almost 1 in 3 parents admit to having paid school fees late. For some schools this is said to be a persistent problem, with one education provider we spoke to saying that, at one of its schools, that figure had risen to 6 in 10 parents not paying at any one time.

Clearly when it reaches this level, it is impossible to run a school.

In general non-payment is however restricted to a manageable minority at any one time. According to Dubai’s education regulator, less than 9% of grievances received from schools are concerning non-payment of fees.

As you would expect, how much financial pressure parents are under makes a difference in terms of payments: one third of UAE parents that claim to be under financial stress have paid their school fees late, a figure that drops to one in five for those that say they are not.

However, actual reasons given for non-payment vary. The biggest single reason is financial difficulty (66.7%), followed by “general disorganisation” (14%). Eight percent of parents who have paid late have done so simply because they “do not believe in the payment dates set by schools”.

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In the WSA school survey 22% of parents who had been late said it was no more than one-week, 34% two weeks, and 32% one-month. Eleven percent of those parents who had paid late, admitted to having been one term late. No parent admitted to being more than a term late.

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Schools are encouraged by education regulators in the UAE to work with parents to resolve non-payment of fees, and a priority for education regulators is that the child does not suffer during these periods. According to the KHDA, “if payment isn’t received after a certain length of time, schools have the right to issue parents with warning letters.

“In exceptional circumstances it is the KHDA’s role to work to bring the schools and parents together to resolve the monetary dispute to ensure that students are not affected. Schools have the right to withhold student reports and transfer letters until fees are paid.”

In correspondence with WSA, Dubai’s education regulator told us there were schools in the emirate that “already have excellent parent/school agreements in place”, which “clearly outline the rights and responsibilities of both parties and include agreement on payment terms”.

However the KHDA has recently introduced a new legally binding contract for those schools which do not have such agreements in place yet.

“Designed to promote positive relationships and protect the rights of both schools and families, the School Parent Contract includes refund and admission policies, school fees, attendance and punctuality, as well as health and safety provision and transportation. It also address parental responsibilities such as providing schools with accurate medical, psychological and educational assessment records.”

The first phase of the Parent School Contract has been rolled out in six schools and is currently in the pilot phase. Signing is mandatory for student registration in these schools, and if the initiative is successful, it will be rolled out across all schools in Dubai, the KHDA told us.

“We hope that increased use of official parent/school agreements will discourage all disputes, including monetary issues, as all rights and responsibilities will be clearly outlined from the outset.

“We are aware that many parents may not have had prior experience in their home countries of purchasing education for their children before and therefore we need to provide support.”

According to the survey, schools across the emirates do handle non-payment by and large very sensitively.

Less than 1 in 10 (8.3%) of those that have paid late claim that schools lacked understanding in correspondence with them. By contrast 37.5% said schools were courteous and understanding, and 54% said schools were just factual.

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In 76% of cases schools did not resort to any possible threats of action in their correspondence with parents. In only a very small number of cases – 1 in 10 of those that had paid late, and where a threat of action was made – was it actually carried out.

Note, this is ten percent of those that have paid late and received correspondence from their child’s school. It represents less than three percent of the survey base.

 

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