Many parents in the UAE are unsure and uncomfortable about the reopening of schools in September. But they do have a few alternatives, including homeschooling or enrolling their children in an exclusively online school.
Fuelled by the current financial crunch, which has in turn been driven by the Covid-19 pandemic, homeschooling is a consideration in many parents’ minds at the moment. And when you consider that annual tuition fees can range from AED 30,000 to AED 100,000, depending on the school and curriculum, it is easy to see why. For it is possible to get good homeschooling options for anywhere between AED 3600 and AED 11,000. Peter Davos, founder and CEO of Hale Education, comments: “There has been a surge in interest in homeschooling with established online service providers who tuition can be 90% cheaper than what parents are paying brick and mortar schools.”
It is no surprise, therefore that a growing number of parents may look at this route, although there are a few apparent problems too, such as not being able to go out to work. Learning at home may have been required in what was a crisis situation, but it not a long-term solution for most parents.
However, homeschooling may well have to continue in some form for the foreseeable future. In the best-case scenario, officials have said, students will be in physical classrooms for 70% of the time and learning from home for 30% of the school week. What’s more, there is a strong argument to suggest that if online learning is to continue, then schools should reduce tuition fees.
The Benefits of Homeschooling
Homeschooling is not prohibited or regulated by the UAE’s authorities. That said, the vast majority of parents in the UAE send their children to brick and mortar schools, with in excess of one million youngsters attending over 1200 private and public schools. In comparison, only very few parents opt to teach their children at home.
Emiratis who choose to teach their children at home must show they are meeting certain educational requirements, while expats do not. Students are also not required to be accredited to a curriculum, but parents can decide to choose one if they wish.
But is the quality of homeschooling good enough? Critics of this approach claim that it varies considerably, and that is some cases forms of abuse, which could well have been spotted by a teacher, can go unseen.
Nevertheless, under the right circumstances, it can offer many benefits. These include:
- With a desire and commitment to learn, a relaxed and less competitive environment can help to develop a better understanding of subjects.
- While traditional schools need to close in a crisis such as Covid-19, homeschooled children can continue to benefit from their usual online schooling programmes.
- Homeschooling can protect children from bullying, which can, if left unchecked, changes lives and have a very negative effect on a child’s education.
- There is data that shows that those children who are schooled at home perform better academically.
And with private schools getting more expensive by the day, homeschooling is turning out to be an increasingly attractive option.
A Third Way
The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) in Dubai said that parents who are interested in alternative forms of education might be able to join the Rahhal programme.
In response to a question on its website concerning homeschooling, KHDA replied: “KHDA does not currently recognise homeschooling programmes” pointing to Rahhal as an alternative. Rahhal, which loosely translates as ‘traveller’ in Arabic, is a KHDA-approved programme for participating schools and students that allows young people to be absent from most classes to pursue extracurricular goals, such as sports or arts, at recognised establishments. It can also allow students to study from more than one school at a time.
To qualify, students must be enrolled full-time in a Dubai private school.
Logic over Emotions
Is homeschooling a good idea? There isn’t a concrete answer to that question because it all depends on a few factors. It may be an excellent option for one family but not the right fit for another.
It takes a lot of bravery and dedication to school a child at home, and the ability to see things through, no matter what. Your child’s future is dependent upon how well you do the job, so it isn’t a decision to take frivolously.
While there are obvious financial costs, such as not being able to go out to work, many would-be homeschooling parents don’t take into account the personal cost. Yes, it can be a lot of fun! But you must have a firm conviction and commitment that will carry you through the times when you want to pull your hair out. Consequently, for the sake of your family unit, you need to listen to our head rather than your heart.
Dubai Health Authority dedicated, 24/7, back to school Covid-19 helpline Tel 800 588