x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Standardise exams bring back metrics

Reforms are needed to bring public students up to grade level, improve teaching methods and strengthen school curriculum. A policy of total transparency remains essential to achieve long-term gains.

If at first you don't succeed, try and try again. The saying has inspired generations of children to never give up. It is, under the circumstances, equally applicable to the national project of education reform.

As The National reports today, the results from November's tests of students in Grades 3, 5, 7 and 9 are mixed. Results in maths and science were at average or above, according to scores from 285 public schools in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.

But there are concerns about writing and spelling skills which are designated "below average". Worse, the poorest performers were among the lower grades where students are not meeting curriculum targets. This is concerning given that it is in a student's early years that the building blocks of learning are cemented.

Clearly, reforms are needed to bring public students up to grade level, improve teaching methods and strengthen school curriculum. That this information is being released, with perhaps more to come, will give officials the tools to do that.

Releasing these results, as painful as they may seem, brings another level of transparency to the national educational system - which, seen in clear view, has plenty of room for improvement. Parents will now be receiving detailed reports of their children's results, helping them work with teachers to address problem areas and improve their performances.

The standardised tests that were supposed to measure scholastics across the country - the United Arab Emirates National Assessment Programme (quite a mouthful even for a good student) - were scrapped in 2003. Previous exam results had shown students were performing far below expectations. Officials realised, however, that the education system was not going to miraculously improve on its own. So in June of last year, the Minister for Education, Humaid al Qatami, reinstated the national assessment programme.

A policy of total transparency remains essential to achieve long-term gains. The results may not be what many parents or officials wanted to see. But they are exactly what is needed if the standard of education in the UAE is to be raised.