x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Public schools are failing their pupils

With Emirati parents increasingly opting for private schools, government run institutions are failing in their mandate.

Many Emirati pupils and their parents favour private schools over government ones for the quality of education offered. This trend has long been known, but just how much the public sector was failing local students has been unclear until now.

As TheNational reported yesterday, over 50 per cent of Emirati parents in Dubai pay for their children's education out of pocket rather than receive it for free in government schools. Low budgets and poor teacher quality in the public sector are among the top reasons.

Obtaining the best education money can buy is every parent's wish for every child. Private schools the world over employ first-rate educators and curriculum models that give pupils a leg up in learning. In many instances, public schools simply can not compete.

But just because the UAE is blessed with an abundance of private learning institutions doesn't mean the government-run system should fail those students who remain. Plenty of Emirati families are unable to afford the high cost of a privately earned degree.

Restoring confidence in the public school system will take time, and money. Insufficient budgets and low teacher salaries are perennial concerns.

Inconsistency in curriculum is another factor for why students shun government schools. Over the years there have been too many education strategies and too little education. What would be more helpful is careful selection of strategies and then consistency in application. Consistency is essential in building students' skills over time.

Private schools, for the most part, follow American, British or French curriculum, meaning they will always be the preferred places of learning for children wishing to pursue higher education abroad, or for parents who want to expose their children to different cultures and greater diversity.

For the rest, public school classrooms might be the only ones they ever see. With the rate of Emirati drop-outs already at a staggering 25 per cent among males, it is in the country's interest to make public school learning as beneficial as it can be.