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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Dubai private schools up their game after ten years of inspections

Regulator's report charts rising standards and greater scrunity

Grade 9 students in an Arabic class at Dubai British School. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Grade 9 students in an Arabic class at Dubai British School. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

The number of pupils attending Dubai private schools rated 'good' or better has doubled in the past ten years in what inspectors say is evidence that educators have upped their game significantly.

The picture in 2008 was very different — with just 30 per cent of pupils attending a school that was rated good by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority.

Now that figure is 66 per cent, and the regulator said that's with more scrutiny not leniency.

A report titled A Decade of Growth revealed inspectors have spent more than 12,000 hours observing classrooms since 2008.

And almost 400,000 parents were surveyed for feedback.

“Reflecting on the last ten years of school inspections in Dubai, we can clearly say that the quality of education offered by private schools has significantly improved, as have pupil outcomes and achievements", said Fatma Belrehif, executive director of Dubai School Inspection Bureau at the KHDA.

How education has improved. Stan Cooper / The National
How education has improved. Stan Cooper / The National

"Overall, there is a higher proportion of good and better schools in Dubai, with 86 schools having improved their overall performance since their first inspection visit.”

She said the overall quality of education in Dubai — which is one of single largest private school markets in the world, and among the most expensive — has become better.

"In the past ten years, we have witnessed dramatic changes in the educational landscape in Dubai. Parents are now much more likely to enrol their children in a "good" school than before the introduction of school inspections.

"A major focus of the past ten years has been to raise the quality of learning experiences and to enhance achievements and well-being,” she said.

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The KHDA also pointed out that 26 per cent of Emirati pupils received a good or better quality private education in 2008; today, that number stands at 62 per cent.

In terms of the 2017/2018 report, 24 schools have improved their rating compared to 2016/17.

Of the 166 private schools inspected this academic year, 14 were rated 'outstanding', 27 rated 'very good', 68 rated 'good', 51 rated 'acceptable' and six rated 'weak'.

That compares to the report revealed that of the 159 schools that were inspected, 16 schools were rated outstanding, 14 schools very good, 69 schools good, 50 schools acceptable and 10 weak.

Dr Abdulla Al Karam, director general of the KHDA, said: "Ten years ago parents in Dubai had no objective means of knowing about the quality of education schools were providing, nor any evidence-based way to compare schools to help them choose the best one for their children.

"Now, parents and educators have a common language to talk about education quality, and annual inspection reports on every private school in Dubai provide an invaluable resource for parents."

The schools that improved were the ones that could adapt to changes.

These schools also focused on pupil well-being while supporting innovation and developing pupils’ ability to think critically — a factor that university chancellors in Dubai this week demanded there be greater focus on.

Rashmi Nandkeolyar, the principal and director of Delhi Private School in Dubai, has been an educator in the emirate for 13 years. Her school was rated 'very good' this year.

“Educators are encouraged to adopt a scientific approach and this has helped all indicators move up.

"For example, for parental engagement performance indicators are clearly marked out.

"This improvement is reflected in all kinds of benchmarks from [Indian curriculum] CBSE board exam results to the Pisa entrance. The improvement of any school will be in all of these aspects.

"The sharing of best practice, being open regarding inspections and working with schools has all helped drive improvement."

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - September 22, 2016. Brendan Fulton ( Principal - Dubai British School ) at the school premises. ( Jeffrey E Biteng / The National ) Editor's Note; ID 56987 *** Local Caption *** JB220916-AClass10.jpg
Brendan Fulton from Dubai British School said the best schools focus on overall wellbeing and not just results. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Dubai British School has been categorised as 'outstanding' and principal Brendon Fulton said it is as important to be a welcoming place to study as it is to achieve good exam results.

"Whilst we are very happy with the positive recognition of our student’s achievements, we are most proud of the rich commentary acknowledging the social and emotional well-being of our students and the excellent relationships that exist between staff and pupils, and among staff."

Rachel Higgins, principal of Gems Jumeirah Primary School, said she was particularly pleased with the feedback regarding wider community engagement.

"As a school we pride ourselves on developing a caring community," she said.