An educational 'black market'? UAE parents spend more on private tutoring than they do on school fees

Published April 13th, 2015 - 09:21 GMT
It is not permitted for schoolteachers in the UAE to give private paid lessons at home. (File photo)
It is not permitted for schoolteachers in the UAE to give private paid lessons at home. (File photo)

Some parents pay more money for private tutoring classes for their children than school fees, Gulf News has learnt.

Parents say they are burdened by private tuition fees, with some reporting that they pay up to Dh4,000 ($1000) a month in tutoring fees.

In a race to boost students’ grades or even just to pass from one class to another, hiring a private tutor has increasingly become the norm.

In fact, a survey conducted by the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) in 2013 found that nearly half of the 40,000 parents surveyed said their children attend private lessons outside school.

“I pay more money for my children’s private tutoring than for their school fees. For my elder daughter, who is in grade 11, I pay Dh1,200 per month in private tuition fees. This is more than her monthly school fee, which is Dh900 ($245),” said Indian mother Lata Verma.

Both of Verma’s children, who are in grades 11 and five, attend private tutoring classes in subjects that include maths, science, English and Arabic. For her younger child, Lata pays Dh600 ($163) per month in private tuition. This is almost the cost of his school fee, which is Dh700.

Although Verma’s children are enrolled at a top Indian school with an ‘outstanding’ ranking, she believes her children need tutoring because the teachers at the schools are demotivated by low salaries and so do not exert any efforts at school and prefer to make money by giving private tuition. “Some of the private tutors are teachers from my children’s school. They gather 15 students and give classes at home. I am a working mother, so I can’t teach my children myself. I have no choice but pay two tuition fees a month.”

Sudanese mother Salam Ali, who parted with an annual fee of Dh8,000 ($2000) to enrol her daughter in a tuition centre, says that as a parent, she will stop at nothing when it comes to her children’s education.

“My daughter is bright, but the teachers at her school are all weak. All the good teachers end up leaving the school because they are paid low salaries.”

In addition to enrolling her grade 12 daughter at the centre for chemistry classes — where she takes six hours of classes a week for a year — Salam said she also hired a private tutor to teach her physics.

“The centre takes Dh8,000 per year while the tutor takes Dh150 ($40) per hour and we call him in twice a week for two hours. Yes, these costs are a burden but my family believes education is priority.”

A study conducted by the Dubai School of Government (DSG) in 2011 reported that private tutoring costs, on average, Dh100-200 per hour with rates surging to Dh1,000 per hour in the weeks leading up to end-of-semester examinations.

Palestinian mother of three Laila Al Khateeb said she paid up to Dh4,000  a month in private tuition fees for her son who was not doing well in school.

“We had private tutors for every subject — Arabic, English, maths, chemistry and even religion. Tutors who taught literature classes like Arabic and English took Dh100 per hour while those who taught sciences like maths and chemistry took Dh200 per hour.”

Laila said she would pay up to Dh4,000 a month in fees and, during the examination period, each tutor would sit with her son for five hours straight. “In my case, it was not the school’s fault; the quality of education was good, but I needed to hire the tutor because my son had problems concentrating. He was lagging in studies from the beginning and refused to get help when he was first diagnosed.”

Laila said getting a tutor for every subject was the only option she had if she wanted her son to pass.

It is not permitted for schoolteachers in the UAE to give private paid lessons at home. There are, on the other hand, private institutions and centres that offer legally licensed tutoring.

A Jordanian tutor who preferred not to be named said she has to give private tutoring classes even though she knows that it is not permitted to make ends meet.

“I could not a find a job after I graduated, so I opted to give tuition classes to make money. I make up to Dh5,000 ($1300)  a month. Once I find a full-time job, I will stop the classes.”

Ida Redzepagic, from the Tutoring Centre in Dubai, said parents opt for the centre’s services for individualised support. She said the centre, which on average charges a Dh2,000 ($544)  monthly fee, has seen a growing demand for private tuition.

“Private tuition by the centre is better because private tutors [operating from homes] tend to only focus on school work, while the centre focuses on academic skills. We begin with working on the student’s current academic skill level in the classroom while simultaneously helping him rise above it.”

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