x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Dubai's poor Pisa report card 'a portent for whole UAE'

Low results a reflection of the standard of education in public schools across the country, says director general of KHDA.

DUBAI // The poor performance of Dubai's government school students in the results of an international study released on Tuesday are a portent for public schools across the country, the head of the emirate's education authority warned yesterday.

The director general of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), Dr Abdulla al Karam, said the low results were a reflection of the standard of education in public schools across the UAE.

"I do not think there will be a huge change in the results of public schools [in Dubai] that have appeared for Pisa from the rest of the country," Dr al Karam said. "Dubai's results are an early indicator of what to expect."

Last year, high school students from Dubai participated for the first time in a study for the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa).

The Pisa test results ranked the emirate 42nd among 65 education zones around the world in reading literacy. The mathematics and science skills of students following the ministry curriculum had also proved significantly lower than students in schools following international curricula. Overall, students in Dubai scored 459 in reading proficiency, with public school students posting an average score of only 380.

The Ministry of Education is preparing to receive Pisa results for schools in Abu Dhabi and the Northern Emirates next year. Students in national curriculum schools have traditionally underachieved in comparison to their peers in private institutions that follow the International Baccalaureate, UK, Indian or US curricula.

The KHDA first highlighted the weaknesses in the public education system when it began school inspections in 2008. Students' low-level science and mathematics skills were also confirmed in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, released in 2007.

Ayesha al Marri, the director of the education ministry's assessment department, said it was too early to think about reforms or curriculum changes. She said decisions on the next course of action would be taken after the ministry received the overall results.

"We expect the performance to be similar," she said. "This is the first time we are comparing our system at an international level, and I think we need more information to see where the improvement is required."

Andreas Schleicher, the head of Pisa, said it was "worrying" that one third of the students in Dubai were not meeting minimum standards in reading literacy.

"They [Dubai] have to set ambitious, coherent and rigorous standards for all students," he said. "The best graduates must be attracted to the profession and developed into effective teachers, and the best teachers must be put into the most challenging classrooms."

UAE-wide Pisa results are expected in 2011. The KHDA officials said they were working with the ministry for the next full round of Pisa testing, which will take place in 2012.