By: Amira Elayah
Concerns over the quality of education have increased in step with a marked, recent increase in the number of private schools numbers in Sana’a. This increase has left parents questioning not only the quality of public and private schooling, but also whether it’s worth the money for their children to attend private schools.
In 2011, a survey conducted by the Ministry of Education revealed that the number of private schools had risen to 450 in Sana’a – and a grand total of 713 schools throughout the republic.
Two or three years ago, it was still widely believed that private schools, concerns about costs aside, offered a better level of schooling. Yet it has also been noted that the quality has decreased as the number of private schools has increased. Today, more and more parents are complaining that the results at such institutions are not satisfactory and nowhere near what they were before.
In fact, the openings of a number of private schools came in response to the very poor quality of facilities and educational materials in the public education sector. Parents at many different levels of society do their best to keep their kids out of the public schools.
“I can’t let my children attend public schools, mix with the types of kids found there and turn into criminals,” said Najla Haider, a stay-at-home mother of three children. Though sad, many parents share Najla’s feelings and somehow believe that private schools provide, at least, more security and safety for their children in that regard. Moreover, bathrooms are in poor conditions and sometimes are not even a part of the public school facilities.
Mohammed Ali, an employee and father of three children who attend private schools, said when asked about quality and rates, “I don’t see any difference between high fee schools and low fee ones when it comes to a focus on studies. The tragedy is that there is no close follow-up or monitoring by the Ministry of Education. Every school has its methodology and students are always in the field of experimentation.” When he was asked why not move them to public schools if there is apparently no difference, he explained that they are even worse, private schools being only the “best among the worst!”
For many, private school fees are considered to be too high to cover, with the lowest ranging somewhere between $1,000-1,500 for primary school students, and rising up to $2,000 for secondary level students.
As for whether the high rates are met by high academic standards, many believe that all private schools are alike in one way or another. “We pay about $2,000 per year for my son, who is not yet in secondary school, and still he comes home asking questions and seeking help on the smallest matters; I’m afraid that if this continues, I will have to pay for a private instructor too!” said one concerned mother. “I’m willing to pay whatever fees, but I want to make sure my kids are getting something in return. I really hope the system improves.”
Clearly, parents wonder about the reasons behind this state of affairs. When it comes down to it, it’s about unqualified staff, curriculums, and general trends in the national educational system. As for the parents, they are simply demanding that the amounts of money paid are met with corresponding levels of quality.
However, Naseem Al-Surahi, a mother of two girls at one of private schools, feels more positive. “My daughters’ school provides a good education and the prices are neither expensive nor cheap as my daughter’s fees at the fourth grade level are $1000 excluding the bus fare. As for local schools, we heard that efforts are being made to establish some distinguished public schools, which will be supplied with a better facilities and qualified teachers as a first step, but we don’t yet know the names of these schools.”