Parents in Dubai may need to review their budgets and allocate a higher portion to their children's education, as most schools have been given the green light to increase fees.

The emirate's Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) on Tuesday announced that some private schools would be allowed to hike fees by a maximum of 5.2 per cent, depending on their results in the latest annual inspections.

The KHDA identified 2.6 per cent as education cost index (ECI), based on which schools can adjust their fees for the 2024-25 academic year. However, schools whose ratings dropped will not be eligible to apply for any increase.

For parents in the city, any hike in tuition fees would hurt their wallets amidst the rising cost of living.

American expat Natalia Miranda said even the lowest possible increase would have a "substantial" impact on their finances.

“My son already goes to one of the most expensive schools in Dubai...even the basic 2.6 per cent is a substantial increase for families ... This year, I didn’t even send my son to the three-week spring camp as those are additional costs that a family has to incur, over and above a child’s tuition fees," she told Khaleej Times.

Miranda acknowledges the costs that may come with the safety and quality of education that private schools in the country offer. However, she said, the problem was that salaries weren't able to keep up with inflation.

"While I appreciate keeping the teachers’ salaries competitive and the need for updates to the school itself, it seems year-on-year there is an increase, which hasn’t been reflected in salaries in addition to overall inflation," she said.

Doing the math

Another parent, Rishi Talwalkar, couldn't help but think the impending rise is an "additional burden".

"I appreciate the fact that schools here, especially the highly rated ones, provide a certain standard of education but despite that, if we do our math, it’s an additional burden on parents.”

Talwalkar couldn't help but do the math, considering he was paying more than Dh112,000 a year for his two children in Year 7 (Dh59,436) and Year 3 (Dh52,838).

"If you add 2.6 per cent to both these figures — because the school has maintained its ‘outstanding position’ even this year — cumulatively, the amount comes to Dh2,919.12 annually," he said. "My question is how much do parents need earn to make both ends meet because families need to factor in other expenses as well?”

Another resident Hozefa A said a lot of planning and calculations had to be done to make ends meet. The hike would present a "significant challenge" especially for those who rely on fixed income and salaries, she said.

“The cost of living has been increasing and everybody is aware of that ... Each year, we carefully allocate our budget to cover household, education, and medical expenses," she said. "This increase in school fees doesn't mean an increase in our wages and it’s almost becoming an annual affair."

What school heads say

Higher fees would lead to improved infrastructure and staff development, school operators said. Besides the cost of living, operating expense tend to increase over time, too, they added.

"The decision to increase school fees for the academic year 2024-25, depending on KHDA approval for each school, empowers us to invest further in our teachers, curriculum provision, and facilities, the bedrock of quality education for every student," said Dino Varkey, group CEO of GEMS Education.

“We will be informing our families in due course about their schools’ fee structure for the coming academic year, and we thank them again for their continuing trust in a GEMS Education school as the best choice for their children.”

Schools may need to increase fees to invest in curriculum development, maintain accreditation standards, and attract and retain qualified teachers, principals said.

Rashmi Nandkeolyar, director and principal of DPS Dubai, said their fee hike would be "very minimal, so it will hardly impact parents".

"Our school will have to carefully manage our resources to maintain the very good education that we offer. The school management is very conscious of building the future of youth and supporting the noble cause of education and every year we add facilities and provide excellent training for teachers. This year is no different," Nandkeolyar added.

How hike is calculated

The increase is tied to each institute’s rating in inspections Any fee adjustment by schools must be approved by the KHDA. Here's how it's calculated:

Timeline of tuition fee hikes

This is the second year that schools are allowed to increase fees after they remained unchanged for three years (2020-21; 2021-22; and 2022-23) due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Here's a look at previous increases:

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