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Parents shock at Abu Dhabi school textbook costs

ABU DHABI // After paying nearly Dh60,000 in annual tuition fees, parents at Raha International School have been told that they must also foot the bill for expensive textbooks.

On June 22, the school issued a notice to parents of pupils entering the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma programme, saying they had until the end of last month to place an order with the school to purchase the schoolbooks.

“It’s unexpected,” said a South African father of a pupil starting grade 11 at the private school. He noted the school had supplied learning material to pupils up to grade 10. “The books that she needs, I added it up and it comes up to Dh1,500.”

The father said his daughter needed to supply text and workbooks for six subjects. The most expensive book, Exploring Language, costs Dh343.

“The rest are all Dh150 plus,” the father said. “We’re from South Africa and I recently did a little bit of conversion and what we are paying for grade 10 this year, or were expected to pay for grade 10 this year, is equal to a first-year bachelor of commerce degree at the University of Cape Town. So, it’s quite expensive the schooling and education, and now this on top of it.”

J L, another father whose daughter is starting the DP programme in September, said her textbooks would cost about Dh1,750 on top of the tuition of nearly Dh60,000.

“I was surprised, I think we pay enough in school fees,” he said. “The school has covered textbooks as part of the school fees up until now, so I was a little bit surprised to all of a sudden see that is coming in as well.”

He noted some companies covered the tuition fees for their employees’ children, but not always other costs, such as books, uniforms or transport.

The parents said they were also taken aback by the late notice issued by the school advising them they were responsible for purchasing the textbooks.

“In general, we were happy with what we pay for in the school, the teaching is very good and everything else. I’m just surprised that these things sort of come very last minute,” said J L. “The lack of communication up until the last minute sort of makes it more difficult to swallow.”

Raha International School principal Wayne MacInnis said the board introduced the textbook fees about four years ago to help cover the higher costs of the diploma programme.

“We’re one of the most reasonable DP programmes in the UAE and basically the costs of running the programme are fairly high so that’s one of the initiatives that had been introduced,” Mr MacInnis said. The additional funds helped to pay for teacher training, resources and labs.

He acknowledged the notice was sent late to parents because of a delay involving the book supplier.

Mr MacInnis said it was “common practice” for schools to ask parents to purchase the books. But other IB schools, such as the American Community School Abu Dhabi and British International School Abu Dhabi, said the textbooks were covered by the annual tuition fees.

The parents questioned why the school did not offer a book exchange programme. Mr MacInnis said the school did try to organise a book sale, but only five students offered to sell their textbooks.

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(via The National)