x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Dubai schools given damning inspection report

Improvement in Indian schools slows and all three Pakistani schools are unsatisfactory despite 'desire of most students to learn'.

DUBAI // Inadequate schools are failing thousands of Pakistani and Indian children who want to learn, according to a damning new report.

Inspectors rated all three Pakistani schools in Dubai, with 3,211 pupils, unsatisfactory. Of the emirate's 21 Indian schools with 60,565 pupils, two, with 1,265, were also unsatisfactory. Ten were ranked acceptable, seven good and only two outstanding.

The result is that children's potential is not being realised and their ambitions are being thwarted, the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau (DSIB) says in its report, published yesterday.

"One striking feature of Pakistani schools is the positive desire of most students to learn and improve their lives through education," the report says.

Despite the progress made by some Indian schools, the report paints a grim picture of slow development. "After rapid improvement in most areas within Indian curriculum schools from 2009-2010, the rate of improvement has slowed down and, overall, judgments of schools have remained the same as last year," it says.

Both Indian and Pakistani schools are criticised for a lack of support for pupils with special needs and poor teaching in key subject areas including maths, science, English and Arabic. Only 57 per cent of Indian pupils had acquired an acceptable level of the Arabic language, the report says.

Pakistani schools showed low pupil attendance, staff shortages and rapid staff turnover, and a lack of awareness about child-protection.

DSIB officials said yesterday that organisations running Pakistani schools - Al Farooq Pakistani Islamic School, Sheikh Rashid Al Maktoum Pakistani School and Pakistan Education Academy - needed to bring about urgent changes.

"After seeing these results, it is up to the community and parents to take this matter seriously," said Dr Abdulla Al Karam, director general of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, which commissioned the report.

He said effective leadership was a big challenge at Pakistani schools. "Teachers and curriculum contribute heavily to the quality of schools but the thing that makes the most difference, as we have seen, is the leadership of the school."

According to the report, governance lacked accountability and sufficient representation from the school community. Leaders did not evaluate themselves appropriately and had little idea of initiatives that would improve the learning and progress.

Schools also faced challenges in recruiting skilled educators and their governance and leadership was ineffective.

Sheikh Rashid Al Maktoum Pakistani School has only recently appointed a new principal, Dr Abdur Rashid. The report said the principal had started addressing some of the shortcomings, but found the school had not worked on the recommendations from previous inspection results.

The school had been asked to raise pupils' attainment level in all subjects, enhance the curriculum and physical education, and address healthy and safety issues.

Dr Rashid said he was disappointed that the school had dropped one rank but said there were several challenges that had to be overcome.

"Funds are always a reason as to why we cannot improve the quality," he said. "The fee structure is very low and it is hard to recruit good teachers on such small budgets."

He said he wanted more community support to raise standards at the school.

"I want to go to the community but right now they don't trust Pakistani schools. I have to work towards developing their confidence and the credibility of our schools so that they don't feel like their money will be wasted."

Mohammed Rashid Ashraf, a board member at Pakistan Education Academy, believes the new principal appointed there will turn the situation around.

"We have already made a lot of changes to our facilities and our parental relationships," said Mr Ashraf. "We are positive that we will be able to raise our standards in a few months' time."

The new principal, Shafiq Ahmad, said his priority would be to recruit highly qualified teachers. "We have to raise the standard of teaching and will start training sessions for existing teachers," he said.

Tariq Zaman, whose daughter attends one of the schools, said they were failing to engage parents. "I believe schools need to consult the parents more on things and we should be supporting them too," he said, although he had noted positive changes in recent months.

"Just the reception area has become so much more welcoming now; it wasn't like this before."