| Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai school inspections

The results of the 2011 school inspections are in. See the highlights

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Six British curriculum schools were rated ‘Outstanding’ out of the total 136 private schools inspected. What about the other curriculum schools?
There are many more schools in Dubai operating with the British Curriculum than other systems, so it stands to reason that statistically, British schools have dominated this year’s ‘Outstanding’ ratings. However, there are a lot of Indian and American schools that also did extremely well and were awarded ‘Good with Outstanding features’.

You have inspected every school in Dubai once a year. In the UK, inspections are carried out less often, (every seven years on average) especially on good schools.
I think we’ve made excellent headway in gathering data and encouraging positive trends in last the three years. Prior to our work, very little information was available to parents about the schools here, and now there are full reports published online about almost every school. In terms of maintaining the annual report, there are several factors we have to consider. Dubai is a migratory place, and many schools have a high turnover of staff and pupils. A teacher might be recruited to work in one school, but might then move to another after just a year. It must be remembered that any school is only as good as its teaching staff, and as the current climate is so fluid, we do need to track those changes through regular inspections. Hopefully, our role will help things to stabilise a little, as parents can make more informed choices about which schools will suit their children, and teaching staff can do the same.

Quality of Arabic teaching is one area that can prevent a school from being rated ‘Outstanding’.
This is true, and we are aware that teaching methods for Arabic aren’t always as up-to-date as they could be. However, as our ratings prove, some schools really are getting it right. And if they can reach the target, this shows other schools can do it too. Teaching Arabic as a first or second language is a Ministry requirement, considered as important as numeracy and literacy.

You’ve encouraged parents to get involved in the assessment process. How is that going?
Amazingly well! For 2010, we had over 47,700 comments on schools that were submitted by parents. We were delighted by that, because parents provide such a valuable insight into a school’s strengths and areas that require improvement. We provided the inspectors with the parental comments before they visited the schools, and it gave them an indication of what to look for. Parents are a powerful force for change.

The KHDA has been criticised for letting schools know when they are coming to inspect them.
That’s true. Some people do feel that if you tell the school in advance, they will put on a show and possibly earn themselves a grade that they don’t deserve. We don’t believe this is true. Firstly the KHDA inspections are all about encouraging positive action and providing an incentive to schools to improve their services. We are not about ‘catching people out’. That’s not our purpose. Secondly, it would be very difficult to fool an inspector, because classrooms are spontaneous places, and a poor teacher won’t suddenly become a great teacher over the inspection period. Don’t forget that we gather student and parent feedback too. It’s a very rigorous process.

There is some concern that the higher rated schools will raise their fees as a result.
That’s not something the KHDA encourages at all. We’re only concerned about quality of service and improving education. Just because a school does well does not mean it has the right to raise fees. The Ministry of Education actually stepped in and put a cap on rising school fees last year. This year, the Executive Council of the Government of Dubai also announced that no raise was to be allowed for school fees.

What improvements have you seen over the past three years?
There have been many. One of the most important has been our relationships with the schools. We are now all working together much harder to raise standards, and we are all learning from each other in the process. Teaching standards in many schools have changed for the better too. For example, in the first year, we came across a lot of schools that used text books as their only resource. Now those same schools are using all manner of resources and encouraging their students to explore initiatives. This is a great step forward.

So you’re happy with the latest results?
Absolutely! The most satisfying thing about this is that we get to see the educational standard making a marked improvement, and we are assisting schools to do that. Our system isn’t perfect. But we’ve learned a lot over the past three years, and we’re improving it all the time.
For full details, visit www.khda.gov.ae.

By Time Out Kids staff
Time Out Dubai,

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