x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Dubai College headmaster resigns

The headmaster of one of the country's most prestigious high schools resigns, citing government interference in the school's operations as the chief reason.

DUBAI // The headmaster of Dubai College, one of the country's most prestigious high schools, has resigned, citing government interference in the school's operations as the chief reason. In a letter sent to parents yesterday, Dr Carlo Ferrario was critical of the school inspections launched last year and said he would depart at the end of the academic year because of changes in the "educational landscape".

"Over the past two years this has changed markedly, with the level of intervention from external agencies ... reaching levels that, in my view, compromise [the school's] independence," Dr Ferrario said in the letter. His departure from the 30-year-old not-for-profit school that follows a British curriculum comes a year after the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), Dubai's school regulator, began the inspections.

The assessments sparked fierce debate among school owners and operators, in part because of the decision to link tuition increases to the results of the inspections. Schools were placed in four categories. Outstanding schools could increase fees by 15 per cent, good schools by 12 per cent, satisfactory schools by 10 per cent, and unacceptable schools by seven per cent. Previously, schools had been allowed only an eight per cent increase each year.

Dubai College was given a good mark, the second highest rating, last year. Last month, inspectors visited the school again to begin this year's assessment. Dr Ferrario, who is believed to have been at the school for one year, said in his letter that the authority had gone too far in its scrutiny of schools. "While school inspection is important and I applaud it, I believe the system of inspection that has been adopted in Dubai presents more disadvantages than benefits for schools like Dubai College," he said. "It is not a regime with which I feel able to work."

Neither Dr Ferrario nor the KHDA could be reached for comment. An official with the largest private school operator in the UAE said Dr Ferrario's departure was a sign that the inspections were problematic. "Carlo Ferrario is an outstanding educator, so we need to take notice of his comments on inspections. They are supposed to drive out the weak, not the strong," said Ralph Tabberer, the chief of schools at Global Education Management Systems. The company's owner, Sunny Varkey, has also been critical of the inspections.

@Email:klewis@thenational.ae