Schools here for expats differ from those in the US in that they’re private, for-profit businesses and not the public tax, federal and state-subsidized institutions that we yanks are expecting. This means that the education of the children here is actually paid for by the ones using the service, the parents of these children. Remember, there are no direct taxes here at all.
Challenges surround local education here, and consist of three main issues…. Cost, accreditation and availability. As this is a private system, driven by the supply of available slots for children and the demand for those slots, prices vary depending on the number of children here to be schooled. When the economy is booming, more workers here, higher demand for slots, higher prices charged. The UAE ‘s economy is on the upswing now, and the demand is shifting upwards, prices are rising, and one school has closed, leaving even fewer available slots.
Competition is fierce to get into these schools. Waiting lists are established FAR in advance, and require a hefty “application fee” to reserve your application space. Not your space in the school, but your space in line to APPLY. Many expats arrive here without knowing this and simply can’t get their children into classes for the school year when they arrive.
Further an issue is whether or not the schools selected possess the accreditation needed to transfer successfully back to the US – most don’t according to a Jordan newspaper article here. Children may end up with diplomas that are not recognized by American colleges – leaving them out of the college picture till they can sort out what they still need to meet requirements. I didn’t really know what the costs were here to educate a child for a school year. Even knowing that most employers offer some sort of tuition assistance or coverage for children, I was *quite* surprised to learn that some pay up to AED 65,000 for a sixth-grader’s schoolyear. There are fees on top of the tuition, trips, uniforms, books, guides and incidental expenses included. That’s a lot of money.
So – what’s the solution? Many expats turn to home-schooling to ensure that their children don’t fall behind. And if they’re a first-time educator, it’s daunting. Their spouse is quite occupied with a new job and responsibilities, the whole family is trying to settle into a new environment, everyone’s trying to adapt and adjust, and all these details can seem overwhelming.
There is an interesting solution to help ease some of this new burden though – companies that provide all the “support structure” for homeschoolers. For a fee, of course. They’ll provide all the counselors, the record-keeping, the reporting and the curriculum guidelines keeping homeschooler parents to focus on the actual education of their children. One of these companies is called K¹² International Academy and they have offices here in Dubai. I also made note of a number of online local support groups for parents, including facebook page groups, message boards and discussion forums, all offering ideas, support, suggestions and guidance from personal experience – sometimes there’s just nothing better than talking to someone who’s traveled down the same path.
Now, none of this is first-hand knowledge of course, since we don’t have children. But I really found it interesting about how differently education is viewed in different countries. Here, the Emirati educate their own. If you choose to bring children here, they are your responsibility to educate. But there are some alternatives for parents!