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Schooling for Sale in Dubai: An Analysis of Schooling Quality and Price

By Suzanne Selim


The use of school inspections by educational authorities in the Arabian Gulf countries is rapidly becoming a chosen practice to ‘ensure’ good quality schooling in their private sector schools. Simultaneously, there is an emerging trend of linking inspection judgements with school fee increases. Advocates of this policy suggest that this form of ‘reward for good performance’ encourages poorer performing schools to improve, thus narrowing the gap in access to good quality schooling. In this context, where public schooling is exclusive to a minority of the population and the majority compulsorily choose from a spectrum of fee charging private schools offering different curricula, most parents are faced with the challenge of purchasing the best quality schooling for their children at prices they can afford. Additionally, policy makers are faced with the challenge of ensuring that market forces within the private sector do not widen access to good quality schooling. A premise of this model of market-provided schooling is that markets optimise the quality of schooling at a given price. This study focuses on the private schooling sector in Dubai as an example of a context in which school fee hikes are linked to school inspection outcomes. It examines the effects of different variables such as school fees and the curriculum offered on the quality of schooling provided. This study employed quantitative and qualitative techniques. Data on the quality of schooling, was obtained from inspection reports for the fifth year of inspections (2012/2013), in addition to data on fees charged which were obtained from official sources. The affordability of schools' fees was assumed to be an indicator of students’ socio-economic status. The findings of this study confirm the premise of the neo-liberal, market-provided approach to schooling. It suggests that students of a lower socio-economic status are more likely to receive an inferior quality of schooling than those of a higher socio-economic status when controlling for other factors. Thus, this study concludes by primarily suggesting that policy makers pursue alternative methods of both determining and rewarding good quality schooling

Year: 2016
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