The future of education in Dubai

Education experts in the UAE answer the questions that matter to parents

Interview, Education

One of the biggest concerns a parent faces in the UAE is whether their child is getting a good education. Are they at a good school? What does the future hold? Will fees rise? Time Out Kids decided to ask all the questions you need the answers to

KHDA (The Knowledge and Human Development Authority)

What is your mission statement?
‘The knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) is responsible for the growth and quality of private education in Dubai. We support schools, universities, parents, students, educators, investors and government partners to create a high quality education sector focused on happiness and wellbeing.’

How many new schools have you opened in the last 12 months?
‘KHDA regulates private education in Dubai, hence these schools are not “KHDA schools”, but are privately-owned institutions. 26 new schools have opened in the last three years, 11 of which opened last year. These schools have created places for 23,000 more students in Dubai.

Will any new schools be aimed at a specific nationality/culture?
‘We will be releasing specific details on new school openings shortly. Schools with a UK curriculum continue to be the most popular choice for parents in Dubai, attracting students from a range of nationalities. There is also continued demand amongst families for Indian-curriculum schools in Dubai.’

Are school fees set to rise in 2016?
‘Take a look at the column on the next page on the School Fees Framework, which sets out regulations governing school fee increases in Dubai. The School Fees Framework links fee increases with the Education Cost Index and school inspections rating. This has been in place since 2012. You can find it using this link:’

Do you think the UAE has enough schools or do you see a real shortage?
‘We can only speak for private education in Dubai. Reports of years-long waiting lists are coming to an end; Dubai’s private schools sector has enough places to accommodate every student in Dubai. With this in mind, there will always be demand for schools who provide high quality education. At 93.5 percent, not-for-profit schools have a higher capacity utilisation rate (CUR), that is, they are fuller than for-profit schools, whose CUR is 86.2 percent.’

Have the schools scored high when it comes to assessments/awards?
‘Private schools in Dubai are inspected yearly. Please see the 2014/15 Key Findings for detailed information on inspection ratings and other important data. We are currently working towards achieving the National Agenda targets as outlined in the UAE Vision 2021. Specifically, these targets will see Dubai rank in the top 20 countries in the international assessment exam PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) and in the top 15 countries for TIMSS (Trends in Mathematics and Science Study). Currently, Dubai ranks 48th in PISA.’

What requirements must a child meet to be enrolled into a Dubai school?
‘Schools are responsible for setting enrolment requirements, and these differ from school to school.’

We have noticed the top schools, which can be described as the expensive schools, can actually increase their fees even more if they are rated as a top school. What is KHDA’s view on this?
‘The KHDA fee framework incentivises high quality schools that continue to maintain a quality rating to increase fees in line with the ECI and a multiple appropriate to the rating of the school.
For more information on KHDA, visit (04 364 0000).

The Purpose of the School Fees Framework

The objective behind the development of a framework to regulate school fees is to protect the students and their parents as beneficiaries of educational services, as well as to provide a favourable environment for investors in the education sector and encourage them to improve the quality of education in the Emirate of Dubai. This is achieved by creating a comprehensive mechanism for the implementation of tuition fees which takes account of the educational and economic aspects and protects the interests of all stakeholders. The framework has been developed in line with the strategic goals of the KHDA and as a result of community engagement through parent surveys and investor feedback on this issue. The framework motivates schools to improve the quality of education, whilst at the same time protecting the interests of both parents and investors.

General Definitions
Not-for-profit school: A registered school which teaches each cycle according to the curriculum that it is registered to teach; exists purely for educational reasons; one which is governed by an independent Board with parent representation and from which its shareholders, trustees or any third parties do not benefit financially. Fiscal surpluses, if any, are put back into the institution to further the pursuit of its goals.

For-profit schools: Schools that are run by private, profit-generating companies or organisations. Fiscal surpluses are taken by shareholders and/or investors and any investments have a predetermined return on investment (ROI).

Embassy schools: Schools that have been initiated and are funded by the embassy of a particular country for the benefit of the nationals of that country.

Educational Cost Index (ECI): This is calculated on a regular basis and is announced by Dubai Statistics Center (DSC).


What is your mission statement?
‘At Taaleem, inspiration is what drives successful learning. Everybody remembers an inspiring teacher because of the material difference he or she makes to us as individuals, stretching our potential and encouraging us to make the most of our strengths. Empowerment is the upshot of inspirational teaching and it sees students increasingly aiming higher and achieving more. Together, inspiration and empowerment can be the architects of our future successes.

Having charted the link between inspiration, empowerment and success, creating an environment that inspires children is the driving force behind Taaleem. Taaleem was formed to address the growing demand for quality education in the UAE and wider GCC. Our mission is to inspire all of our students and staff to explore, identify and develop their passions and talents.’

How many new schools have you opened in the last 12 months?
‘Two new Taaleem schools have opened in Dubai in the last 12 months. Dubai British Foundation opened in September 2014, and Dubai British School in Jumeirah Park opened this year.’

What is the estimated number of new schools opening in 2016?
‘There are many new schools in the pipeline from varying operators both in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. None of these schools have yet to be launched officially and it will be interesting to see if all go ahead with their plans to open in 2016 - especially as there is now a perceived oversupply in some of the high end sectors of the market in Dubai. This is definitely good news for parents, but not for operators new to the market - who are expected to show returns to their investors in a short period of time as their business plans were written in a time of shortage and when parents had little choice but to scramble for seats for their child.’

What are your future plans up until about 2020?
‘Taaleem has almost built a school a year from 2005 onwards. Our future plans are to work closely with the government and support their vision for the future by building schools that support their communities. We do not “cookie cut” our schools, each one is designed and planned to serve the community it is in.’

Will any new schools be aimed at a specific nationality/culture?
‘Many of our schools have nearly 80+ nationalities in them; we believe that we serve a very wide and diverse section of Dubai’s community. We will continue to build schools that offer the very best international curricula; this means The British, American and IB programmes of study.’

Are school fees set to rise in 2016?
‘There has been no announcement about school fees for next year. Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi adopt very different methods of awarding school fee adjustments. In Dubai, recently it has been the school’s Dubai School Inspection rating multiplied by the government generated ECI (Education Cost Index). In Abu Dhabi, fee adjustments are calculated on an individual basis taking many factors into account and are granted by ADEC.’

Do you think the UAE has enough schools or do you see a real shortage?
‘In Dubai it is different; 2014-2015 was a game changer with 20,000+ more school places becoming available. There is currently an oversupply in some sections of the premium market leading to some operators offering a variety of discounts and incentives not previously heard of in Dubai.’

Have the Taaleem schools scored highly when it comes to assessments/awards?
‘All of our schools have achieved or are in the process of achieving either CIS (Council of International Schools), IB (International Baccalaureate) or the NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges) accreditation. These awards are only given to schools that have gone through very rigorous independent visits, completed a very comprehensive self-study exercise and have committed to continuous improvement. Parents should always look for schools to be internationally accredited that will guarantee that they are on a par with the very best of international schools.’

What requirements must a child meet to be enrolled into a Taaleem school?
‘Apart from the obvious in relation to age appropriateness, we welcome all families to our schools. We pride ourselves for being inclusive and being able to support the needs of most children whether they are gifted, need EAL (English as an Additional Language) support or have special needs that require learning support.
The one thing that we do ask of parents is that they work as equal partners with the school in the education of their child and not be afraid to voice their hopes and fears.’

We have noticed the top schools, which could be described as ‘expensive’ schools, can actually increase their fees even higher as they are rated as a top school. What is Taaleem’s view on this?
‘Top schools can be described and perceived as expensive, however there have been many benchmarking exercises that show that schools in the UAE are more affordable than in other comparable developing nations. Top schools in Dubai do get to lever their DSIB rating through being able to increase their fees by double the ECI. However, one must bear in mind that the quality of a school never exceeds the quality of its teaching staff and leaders.

70 percent of a schools expenditure is taken up by staff wages and benefits; we live in a world where there is an acute shortage of good teachers, where the competition to recruit highly skilled and experienced teachers increases year on year.

In short, the majority of financial pressures on schools in the UAE are external and not influenced locally and schools must be able to offer internationally competitive packages.’
For more information, visit (04 349 8806).

The Swiss International Scientific School

What is your mission statement?
‘SISD provides an inspiring and challenging learning environment whilst celebrating and rewarding academic excellence.

We encourage our students to become successful, global-minded, enthusiastic life-long learners who will confidently take advantage of future opportunities and help to make a difference.

Together with our teaching staff and parents, we support our students to fully develop their potential in a motivating multi-lingual and international learning environment.’

How many new schools have you opened in the last 12 months?
‘We open the first SISD School this month and are located in Al Jaddaf Area, Dubai Healthcare City-Phase 2.’

What is the future plan for SISD up to 2020?
‘We will be opening SISD (Swiss International Scientific School) secondary building, auditorium and boarding houses in 2017.’

Are your fees set to rise in the year 2016?
‘Not at our school, as it is just opening this autumn.’

Do you think the UAE has enough schools or do you see a real shortage?
‘The demand-supply difference in the Dubai market is slowly being lost thanks to many new schools that have recently opened, including SISD. However, there remains a real shortage in the KG and early primary years phase.’

Have the SISD scored high when it comes to assessments/awards?
‘It will be our first year of operation. We do not have any record for assessments and awards yet.’

What requirements must a child meet to be enrolled into a SISD?
‘We have no particular requirements. However, the child should have a good knowledge of one of the main languages we offer, in order to be able to follow the bilingual curriculum.’

We have noticed the top schools, which could be described as the ‘expensive’ schools, can actually increase their fees more as they are rated as a top school. What is SISD’s view on this?
‘In order to keep the level of quality that top schools aim for, prices naturally have to increase in order to provide the very best standard of education and an optimal environment for learning. These fee amendments all take place in accordance with KHDA’s clear pricing guidelines as to how much a school can increase its prices each year.
For more information, visit (04 375 0600).

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