Cost and Word of Mouth Recommendation Drive Education Choices for UAE Parents
September 7th, 2014, Antonia Stockwell

Cost and Word of Mouth Recommendation Drive Education Choices for UAE Parents

September: It's back to school for children across the Emirates, and a very busy and important time for both parents and children as they embark on a new academic year.

In association with the Arabian Radio Network, YouGov surveyed parents across the UAE to understand their views when it comes to school satisfaction, value for money and choosing a school for their child(rens)'s education.

Of the 533 parents we surveyed, 83 per cent said they currently have children enrolled at private schools in the UAE. Interestingly, despite being offered a free public school education for their children, 65 per cent of Nationals choose to enroll their children at private schools in the region.

According to UAE parents, of the 19 school curriculums currently available, the most commonly studied are Indian curriculums - 32 per cent, followed by UK curriculums - 25 per cent, and The Ministry of Education curriculum - 15 per cent.

On average, UAE parents pay approximately AED 27,500 per year in school fees (for all their children). However, school fees are higher in schools carrying the UK curriculum - which are on average AED 32,300 per year in total.

When looking at the differences between Emirates, YouGov's Omnibus online data tells us that Abu Dhabi parents pay the most on average for their child(ren)’s education (AED 30, 996 per year in total), while Sharjah parents pay the least on average at AED 23,795 per year in total. In Dubai, which offers the largest choice of curriculums, the average school fees are AED 27,931 per year.

Choosing a new school

When considering the ways in which parents choose a school for their child(ren), 'word of mouth' is the most popular method according to 53% of UAE parents, followed by 'my own online research' chosen by 22 per cent. According to our findings, word of mouth is used the most by Abu Dhabi parents – 61 per cent, compared to 44 per cent of parents in Dubai and 55 per cent of parents in Sharjah.

Further to this, when it comes to deciding which school to send their children to, 8 in 10 parents said ‘school fees’ was the most important factor they consider. Of those parents, 41 per cent thought school fees were 'extremely important' when it comes to making the decision.

A school's reputation and the range of subjects taught at school were the second and third most important factors, voted for by 82 per cent and 76 per cent of parents respectively.

A school’s overall facilities (75 per cent), sports facilities (71 per cent) and extracurricular activities (73 per cent) are influencers in school choices but to a lesser extent. Additionally, gender placement (coed or gender segregation) are least considered when making a school selection; close to half place importance on coed (49 per cent) and gender-segregated schools (52 per cent).

Interestingly, contrary to popular debate, when applying for different schools, close to three-quarters of parents said they were successfully granted seats at, (and are currently attending) their first school of choice in the UAE.

Parent satisfaction

The 'school's reputation' was the parameter that UAE parents were most satisfied with in the UAE, expressed by 7 in 10 parents. This was closely followed by the range of subjects taught, and positive word of mouth, of which 64 per cent of UAE parents said they were the most satisfied with respectively.

When considering what makes their child the most happy at school, 62 per cent of parents said they believe the class teacher's personality/quality is the main contributing factor. Both the school's facilities and an environment where it's easy to make friends were also key factors expressed by 64 per cent of parents each.

Value for money

In assessing the overall value for money received, just over 6 in 10 UAE parents claim they receive good value for money from their child(ren)'s education.

Value for money is closely correlated to price. 66 per cent of parents who pay the least for their child's education (less than AED10k per year for all children at school) feel that they are getting good value for money. In contrast, value for money is the lowest for UAE parents who pay the most for their child’s education (60K per year or more) - in this fee bracket, only 53% of parents said they receive good value for money.

The quality of a school’s curriculum (59 per cent) and the quality of and level of investment in teachers (50 per cent) impact a school’s value for money the most according to the UAE parents we surveyed.

When asked how they think schools can be more efficient to improve value for money, a third of UAE parents said they believe deploying the workforce effectively and investing in/developing quality teachers will give them even better value for money.

This survey was conducted amongst 533 parents in the UAE, using YouGov’s Omnibus online research service between 24 August and 1 September 2014. The data is broadly representative of the online population in the UAE.

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