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Teacher salary & infra boost key focus following school fee hike

The lifting of the school fee freeze has been widely welcomed by UAE private schools, and they say it has given them the flexibility to invest in teachers and facilities

Dubai, May 25, 2023: Teachers in the UAE could see a salary hike this year as several schools plan to roll out the benefits of fee hike that has been permitted by regulatory bodies across emirates. 

Many schools that Education Middle East spoke to confirmed that a much-needed revision of teacher salaries will be implemented during the academic year 2023-24. 

“The fee increment will partially go towards defraying the impact of inflation on the operating cost base but predominantly will be used to augment teacher salary and accommodation allowances among other activities,” says Sanjay Mankani, Managing Director, Fortes Education, which runs the Regent International and Sunmarke Schools, and the Jumeirah International Nurseries in the UAE. 

GEMS Education was the first to announce that teacher salaries would increase following its decision to implement the fee hike.  

Dino Varkey, Group Chief Executive Officer, GEMS Education announced that salaries of both teachers of Indian and international curriculum across its school network in the UAE would be revised. “The decision by KHDA to increase school fees for academic year 2023-24 empowers us to invest further in our teachers and facilities, the foundations of a quality education for every GEMS Education student. We are pleased to confirm  that we will be implementing teacher salary increases in April for our Indian curriculum schools and in September for our international schools,” Varkey said in March, soon after the KHDA announcement. 

Schools across the emirate were not allowed to increase fee ever since the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, and this year’s announcement came as a welcome relief to many schools.  

Dr Saima Rana, Chief Education Officer, GEMS Education and Principal, GEMS World Academy – Dubai says that the lifting of the school fee freeze among UAE private schools after three years has been widely welcomed by all education providers, including GEMS Education.  

“The majority of the approved fee rises have been directed towards salary raises for our teachers around the country, currently serving 41 schools of all major curricula. This helps us retain and continue to attract high quality educators… We can do nothing without great educators,” she says. 

When asked if schools expected a higher percentage ceiling, Rana says, “We have been very supportive of the regulators’ decision, and judging by the reaction of the vast majority of our parents, families also think it is fair. 

Ruth Burke, Principal, Swiss International Scientific School in Dubai (SISD) says the increased fee announcement will ultimately benefit the students and the staff, and the wider SISD community. “The fee increase will ensure that we can continue to support and retain our teachers in the UAE, allowing us more flexibility to expand, develop and enhance the facilities at the school.” 

According to her, the fee increase percentage was appropriate, and a good reflection of the increased costs associated from living in the UAE.    

Schools in the UAE are allowed to increase fee based on their performance metrics conducted by various regulatory bodies. In March Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) announced that all schools that maintained or increased their rating in the inspections were eligible for a 3% increase in tuition fee.  

Similarly, Sharjah Private Education Authority (SPEA) also announced that schools with an ‘Acceptable’ and above rating could increase fee by up to 5% for the next academic year, and attributed the decision to the “private sector’s needs to enhance resources and work requirements”.   

Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK) in April announced an approved structure for optional increase of tuition fees in proportion to the school’s performance in the Irtiqaa inspections – an annual programme that assesses private schools.  

Schools that ranked ‘outstanding’ have the option to increase their tuition fees with a maximum cap of 3.94% in the new academic year, while schools that achieved a rating of ‘very good’ qualify for a 3.38% tuition fee addition.  Schools rated as ‘good’ are permitted to apply a 2.81% increase, and schools rated ‘acceptable’, ‘weak’ and ‘very weak’ can implement a maximum tuition fee increase of 2.25%.    

A boost to infrastructure development 

Schools are also making additional investment plans to enhance the infrastructure across various campuses following the announcement of the fee hike. 

Fortes says it plans to invest a cumulative amount of more than Dhs100 million across both its schools in the next two years, and plans to enhance the sports facilities, invest in technology and additional educational resources and hire Emirati Staff to comply with the Federal Nafis Programme. 

Mankhani says they plan to build new classrooms across multiple year groups. 

“In addition, Regent International School is building on its 6th Form, with the addition of a dedicated learning zone on a separate floor of the building,” he says adding that as part of the build programme at Regent, the school is investing in new air-conditioning and fresh-air ventilation systems to improve internal air quality.  

Sunmarke School is also investing in additional Science and Media Labs, Staff Wellbeing Rooms and a new four-storey building annexure, which will house classes and facilities for its newest Signature Programme, the Global Languages Academy. 

“We are also excited to announce further investment in our Environment & Sustainability Signature Programmes at each school, via the further development of our Forests that will be interspersed with age-appropriate play equipment, and greenhouses where students will be able to grow a greater variety of vegetables in addition to our existing hydroponic pods,” Mankani adds.  

Meanwhile, according to Rana, GEMS Education has planned “many exciting capital investments across the group” including the opening of a new school – GEMS Metropole School – Al Waha. 

“It is a part of our expansion plans to offer more students the opportunity of a quality education with GEMS. There are more in the pipeline. We are also very excited about our wonderful new campus GEMS World Academy – Abu Dhabi, which welcomed new students from the start of this current academic year 2023 and is filling up fast. In the pipeline are numerous new projects including a major campus expansion to cater for more students at one of our flagship schools, Jumeirah College,” she adds.   

Burke also says the Swiss International Scientific School plans to invest in solar-powered car parking, better playgrounds and outdoor spaces for the students, growth of subject options and pathways. We will also be increasing our wellbeing team and providing more support available for students mental health, happiness and success,” she adds.

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