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UAE schools: Rip off, or Great Value? – 2015 Survey

UAE schools: Rip off, or Great Value? – 2015 Survey

While only a minority of parents would say school fees represent good value for money, there are signs schools are making inroads into communicating how fees are spent.

When we first asked the question two years ago, responses were evenly divided between Agree (33%), Partially agree (37%) and Disagree (30%). In the latest survey, the number agreeing has remained static at just under 33%, while those who “partially agree” has risen substantially to 43.56%.


In total 23.65% of respondents now do not believe schools represent value, compared to 30% in 2013 suggesting that while parents may still be feeling the pinch of fees, schools are doing a better job at communicating where the money is going – or perhaps, and hopefully, actually just spending in a way parents have a greater appreciation of.

As in 2013, families who have their school fees paid do skew the results. 51% think fees represent good value when they don’t pay anything at all (down slightly from 54% in 2013), 28% when they make a partial contribution, and 30% when they pay all fees themselves.


This is more than just perception. Parents who have their school fees paid, are likely to send their children to more expensive schools, where the education offered may be a step up to schools attempting to do as much with less. We can get a view of this with the correlation of academic attainment to value.



However, it’s a fairly safe bet to say that when you do not pay, it is just easier to see the good in a school, and be less critical.

This is also the case with the question Would You Recommend Your Child’s Current School to another parent?

A Yes here is key to whether schools will be successful in recruiting students. Word of mouth is still the highest form of recommendation in the country – topping the KHDA or the likes of WhichSchoolAdvisor.com in persuasiveness for many parents.

UAE parents are far more positive when the pain of finding the school fees three times a year is taken away from them. An overwhelming 83.7 percent of parents would recommend their child’s school if they do not have to pay for it, over 20 percentage points higher than if a parent has to pay themselves (62.34%). Parents who pay partially sit in the middle (66.8%). Schools may not know it, but their future depends on the satisfaction ratings of their parents, which in turn (partly) depends upon fees versus household income. Parents are not leaving a school because they cannot afford it, but because they no longer see it as good quality – even if qualitatively nothing has changed.

Note: the below graph shows recommendation against who pays.


Some parents have questioned why we ask for household income, but the truth is, financial constraints affect the type of schools you go to, and less obviously how you perceive UAE schools. Money really matters.

Those who can afford the best the UAE has to offer tend to have a much higher appreciation of schools in the UAE, believing they get as good or higher standard of education than in their home country. Those who struggle view schools more negatively – not just in terms of the value of fees, but across the board – colouring how they see academic quality, facilities, teaching… even for the same school.

Just 22% of respondents say fees represent Good Value when they earn between 11,000 AED and 15,000 AED a month, half of the 47.54% who earn above 70,000 AED.

Good Value by EarningsBetter than home country by Earnings

Again, we have to add this is more than just perception – how much money you have does actually change the school type in an almost linear fashion. The more you earn, the less likely you are to be attending an Indian curriculum school which tend to do poorly in terms of perception, and more likely you are to be sending your child to a higher performing British or IB curriculum school, for example…

Curriculum by Earnings

Recommended by Curricula


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> Next:  The ultimate sweetener – get someone else to pay
> Or: Benchmark your school – take the survey


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. 


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