ABU DHABI // Twenty schools in the capital will come under the radar as the education authority begins inspections in government schools for the first time.
In a bid to provide parents with more information about the quality of their children's schools, the Abu Dhabi Education Council will apply a stringent framework, similar to that used to assess private schools.
"We cannot protect the schools just because they are the government's and we manage them," said Dr Mugheer Al Khaili, director general of Adec.
"They will be scrutinised the same way as other schools have been."
Inspections are voluntary but in time they will be extended to all state schools.
Schools will be monitored in areas such as their overall effectiveness, pupils' progress and personal development, curricula, the quality of teaching, meeting pupils' needs through the curriculum, safety and support, facilities, resources and leadership and management.
"The system will be fair and will apply the same methodology that private schools are judged on," said Dr Al Khaili.
"This will allow us to measure the progress of schools and provide a good comparison on standards."
Until now, state schools have been largely unaccountable to the authority, with little monitoring of their finances or the resources allotted to them.
The move to inspect both government and private schools was undertaken first by Dubai's Knowledge and Human Development in 2008. Schools' rankings were published after each annual cycle of inspections.
The Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau's findings have made grim reading in some cases, painting a picture of state school pupils grappling with poor English language skills, traditional teaching methods and little support for slow learners.
Although Adec will not release rankings from the first set of inspections, it will use the reports to develop an improvement plan for the schools. Dr Al Khaili said schools need a chance to get used to the system.
"We need transparency to gauge the quality and effectiveness of our schools but at the same time we do not want to name and shame them," he said.
Schools will be warned when their inspections are pending and what is required of them.
Adec will help them prepare through workshops and professional development sessions.
It eventually wants to gain international accreditation for schools that fulfil the inspection criteria.
It also plans by 2018 to grant greater autonomy to schools that consistently perform well.
Ready for the new school year, the council has drawn up a new standard staffing structure for its schools.
"We are empowering schools to take their own decisions on how they want to raise standards and respond to their future needs," said Salama Al Amimi, director of Adec's quality and efficiency unit.
"But first we have to create the standard in order to measure the outcomes."
She said the new structure, which has more leaderships positions and heads for each department and subject, would strengthen the management and provide clarity.
"It is also important for overall staff satisfaction, career development, specialisation and ultimately a rise in quality," she said at the 2011-2012 Bedaya Forum, an annual Adec-run education forum that ended yesterday.
Samira Al Nuaimi, the vice principal of the Salamah Bin Buti School in Bani Yas, said schools need feedback about their quality and where they stand.
"It is the right of the society and parents to know how good or bad the school is and if they child is getting a good education," she said.
"No school is perfect, so we have to keep improving."
She expects the process to be hard at first and unpopular with teachers.
"But that is the case with any new system until they understand it," she said.
Mrs Al Nuaimi believes her school is ready for the challenge.
"If we are selected, we will work on the framework given to us and try to achieve the goals. It is for the betterment of the pupils," she said.