ABU DHABI // Inspectors have rated two thirds of the emirate's private schools unsatisfactory or worse.
None of the 146 schools they visited achieved the top score of "outstanding" and 100 were found to be "in need of significant improvement" Ė the lowest of three grades.
Inspection teams from Adec, the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec), have been rating private schools for four years but made their findings public for the first time yesterday.
"We started this process long ago, but we did not announce the results at that time to give private schools the chance to enhance and develop their standards," said Dr Mugheer Al Khaili, Adec's director general.
More than 20 schools were rated "high-performing", and more than 90 had improved since they were last inspected. "There is development which is remarkable," said Hamad Al Dhahiri, Adec's executive director of private schools and quality assurance.
Some schools were praised for addressing problems but others were criticised for neglecting child safety, overcrowding classrooms and hiring unqualified teachers.
Inspectors found no link between a school's fees and its rating. "There are schools that have very low fees, not high fees, and the performance was excellent," Dr Al Khaili said.
Detailed inspection reports for each school are available in English and Arabic on Adec's website, adec.ac.ae. "For students and parents, transparency is very important," Mr Al Dhahiri said.
Inspectors spent about four days at each school and evaluated them on eight standards including student attainment, quality of teaching, protection and care of students and school leadership.
The inspectors gave each school an overall score from 1 (outstanding) to 8 (poor). No schools scored 1, but 4 per cent of schools scored 2 (very good) and 11 per cent scored 3 (good). Nineteen per cent of the schools achieved scores of 4 or 5.
The most common score was 6 (unsatisfactory), given to 38 per cent of the schools.
The scores were further divided into "bands" or grades: schools scoring 1 to 3 were graded A or "high-performing", schools scoring 4 or 5 were graded B or "satisfactory" and schools scoring 6 to 8 were graded C, or "in need of significant improvement".
Asked where schools needed to improve the most, Mr Al Dhahiri said: "Teaching".
"Schools must concentrate on professional development and they should also invest in teachers," he said.
Failing schools will receive additional support from the Government and will be inspected more often.
"Schools in band C, the inspectors visit three to five visits a year and there is follow-up continuously," Mr Al Dhahiri said.
Abu Dhabi will not connect the scores to future requests to raise school fees, as the Knowledge and Human Development Authority does in Dubai, Dr Al Khaili said.
"The process of increasing the fees will not change in the coming phase," he said.
The most recent inspections were carried out between 2011 and June this year. Despite low scores overall, many schools showed significant improvement from a previous round of inspections between 2009 and 2011.
For example, 43 schools improved their scores by one point and 18 improved by a full three points. Only 12 schools fell backwards, receiving worse scores than in previous inspections.
Inspectors found that the scores were only weakly linked to the type of curriculum offered.
"Many of the schools who apply the British curriculum in the right way have achieved satisfactory or high ratings but many schools in American, Indian and Ministry of Education curriculum received good ratings as well," Mr Al Dhahiri said. "The curriculum is not a main factor but it's an important one."