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Thursday, March 4, 2021

SEC blocks most schools from raising fees amid child placement squeeze

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Amid unprecedented demand for school places in Doha, the Supreme Education Council (SEC) has allowed only a few private schools to raise their fees for the upcoming year.

Some 80 private schools and kindergartens applied for a fee increase this year, the Peninsula reported today, citing a local Arabic daily. Although the  report said that none of the 80 schools were granted permission to increase fees, at least one has done so. 

Prominent British School Doha College will raise its fees by 12 percent for next year. Doha English Speaking School (DESS) has told Doha News that it has yet to announce its fee structure, pending a response from the SEC about its request for an increase.

It’s possible that other schools may also announce an increase in their fees for 2013-14.

These increases are important if a school is going to maintain its standards, Doha College Headmaster Mark Leppard told us, in an interview before the rise was announced:

If you want to recruit and retain the best staff you have to compete with other salaries in other schools,” he says. “Then there’s the cost of materials, importing things. We do our best to reduce costs, but things are expensive here.” 

Approval process

All private schools in Qatar are required to apply to the SEC for permission to raise fees. This request is examined by the Private School Affairs Panel, which was introduced in 2010 to regulate the sector. If a school announces fee rises without the SEC’s permission, its license can be revoked. 

In their application, schools are asked to justify the need for more funds, and rises are usually only granted if a school has recently invested in new facilities, states the Peninsula

Given this rationale, it is likely that Doha College was permitted to increase its fees to cover the cost of its recently announced expansion into a vacant school building in West Bay. 

School places under pressure

The demand for places in Qatar’s schools has increased enormously in the last few years, as the country’s population has continued to expand at a rapid rate. The most popular schools have very long waiting lists. 

“Three years ago we had 440 applications for 210 places. This year, we had 1,200 for same amount of places  – three times the amount,” says Leppard.

DESS has also told us that the number of applications for its places tripled this year.

However, the announcement of Doha College’s expansion is a sign that an end could be in sight for parents desperately seeking a school place, according to Andy Yeoman, Headmaster of DESS: 

“School places are one of the ways Qatar is going to achieve its 2030 vision, and I think people are waking up to that.” 

“Companies carrying out big projects here are struggling to recruit people with young families. I meet with CEOs every week, wanting to get people into the country, and they won’t come without a school place for their child.  

Our admissions office has mums crying on the phone, desperate to find a place. It’s taken time, but I think this is the beginning of the resolution.”

Schooling costs

Whilst many schools are determined to increase their revenue, many parents will be hoping that they will be unsuccessful this year. The cost of educating a child in a private school in Qatar is already too high for some. Salaries and school fee allowances often fail to keep up with annual increases, and the rising cost of living in Qatar means that families are finding they have less disposable income than ever before.

Fees for British curriculum schools in Qatar currently range from around 30,000 QR to 51,000 QR per child per year, with additional registration and application fees levied on top.

The SEC declined to comment on this story.

Thoughts?

Credit: Photo by Wootang01

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