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School league tables a triumph of transparency

New league tables ranking the performance of Abu Dhabi's private schools give parents the information they need, and will attract a lot of attention.

With the publication of an informative league table of 146 of Abu Dhabi's private schools, parents have the comparison tool they need to assess the quality of the education each establishment offers.

Inevitably, some parents were in for a surprise - and often not a pleasant one. Many learned that their children were attending one of the 100 schools - more than two-thirds of the total - found to be in need of significant improvement, in academic matters and on facilities and safety.

But that's the nature of transparency, where hard facts usurp rhetoric, promises and spin. Parents can now see - at www.adec.ac.ae - exactly what kind of tuition their school fees are buying.

Reliable product information is a consumer's best friend, and when the data can be compared, customer choice becomes truly meaningful.

For some parents, the news was good. Dr Mugheer Al Khaili, Adec's director general, explained that there was a remarkably poor correlation between a school's fees and its rating. In other words, some low-fee schools rated highly, while others charging high fees were among those deemed deficient; parents will be perusing this information carefully.

This is all healthy for the cause of education. In the UAE, where expatriates must pay for their children's schooling, parents can be at a loss to know how to judge different schools. By providing this sort of data, Adec helps calm their anxieties.

There is, however, more to these tables than simply informing parents, important though that is. The ratings have been collected over four years but were not made public until now. In the interim, they have served to identify problem schools so Adec could give them extra attention.

While providing an accurate and independent assessment of each school is obviously important, determining the trajectory of the emirate's education sector is the bigger issue. And notwithstanding the need for improvement at two-thirds of schools, the trend is clearly positive. More than 70 schools improved their score - with 18 jumping two places on the eight-level scale - while only 12 fell backwards.

Expatriates are not the only people who will benefit from this. The competition engendered by clear rankings will surely have an effect on public schools attended by Emiratis. For everyone, these reports are a welcome contribution to better education.

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