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Ministry aims to boost skills among children

Schoolchildren will be tested against international benchmarks in an effort to radically improve their key skills.

DUBAI // Schoolchildren will be tested against international benchmarks in an effort to radically improve their key skills. The Ministry of Education has identified 82 schools in all seven emirates that will take part in the next round of exams administered by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA). The IEA is a renowned independent association of national research institutions and government research agencies, based in Amsterdam. The next exams will be conducted in 2011.

Yesterday, Humaid Mohammed al Qattami, the Minister of Education, said the ministry would use the results of the 2011 exams as a yardstick to improve the school system. "The ministry aims to create a huge change in students' academic life, in addition to using the results to improve testing, curricula, and teaching methods," he said. In the last round of exams, in 2007, students in Dubai performed well below international averages, with public school students faring the worst. On average, they were 100 points below their peers in Dubai private schools in Grade 8 maths, and 40 points behind Grade 4 private-school pupils.

The exam results from some 60 countries form the IEA's Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) report and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) report. These are used by participating countries to evaluate their educational standards and needs. PIRLS is a comparative study of reading skills among 10-year-old pupils in different countries. TIMSS measures the maths and science skills of that age group and students aged 14.

"I think we have learnt a great deal of information from the data," said Dr Abdulla al Karam, the director general of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority. "It gives us a little more depth with supported evidence. We should start seeing the fruits of that." klewis@thenational.ae

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