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Focus on fees, not facilities parents tell educators

Parents responding to a WhichSchoolAdvisor.com poll said they would prefer to see UAE schools reduce their fees, rather than invest in better facilities, spend more on support and after school activities, or even recruit stronger teachers – the most important criteria used in assessing a school according to the 2015 WSA School Survey.

The poll, which ran on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com during April, was completed by 158 parents.

According to the poll, one in four parents would most like to see schools recruit better or more teachers to improve their value offering, less than one in 10 to increase spending on facilities, just over one in 10 to give students more support and a wider variety of after school activities, and over one in two recalibrate the value proposition by cutting fees parents have to pay.

The poll is at odds with the direction that most new schools coming into the market are taking.

New schools are heavily emphasizing qualitative factors – facilities (swimming pools, auditoriums…), curricula and qualifications and nationality of teachers. New entrants to the UAE market have predominantly been premium tier schools, with an overwhelming majority UK or IB based.

“There is no doubt that a section of middle class parents in the UAE are feeling the squeeze,” commented James Mullan, the co-founder of WhichSchoolAdvisor.com. “While new schools are making the environment a more competitive one, the truth is if a school builds a premium product in a premium location, it will be locked into premium prices. Its business model is unlikely to give it much flexibility to compete over price.”

“There is clearly however an opportunity for education providers and private equity players who understand how to offer more mass market schooling. The demand is there – it is just a more complex, difficult business model to get right – with perhaps a less immediately compelling ROI on a spreadsheet.”

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