x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

In Dubai, 20 schools still fail to make grade

Officials say follow-up inspections find little progress in areas ranging from corporal punishment to quality of instruction.

Twenty of 22 Dubai schools that were judged as unsatisfactory during recent inspections are still not meeting basic standards, officials have announced. The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) examined 189 schools between October and April and found that about 20,000 students were attending establishments that failed health, safety and education requirements. One school was reprimanded for its use of corporal punishment, while others were cited for unsafe buses, poor academic standards and low quality of instruction.

When final inspection reports were released in May, many underperforming schools complained that government caps on tuition fee increases would prevent them from improving, even though the new caps, linked to inspection results, were similar to those previously in place. The KHDA said on Monday that only two of the cited schools had made what the authority deems sufficient progress. The Star International School - Al Twar, owned by ETA-Star Holdings, and the Oxford School will be exempt from further check-ups, although neither will be moved to a better category until the next round of inspections in 2010.

The other 20 schools will continue to receive visits from the KHDA's Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau every three months until sufficient progress is made, officials said. "There is a huge variety between these schools," said Jameela Al Muhairi, the chief of the DSIB. "They have different areas which need improvement, from matters of health and safety to discipline, from teaching standards to educational outcomes."

At the grammar school, inspectors on their follow-up visit noted that corporal punishment had not ceased; students reported that staff continued to discipline them physically. The school had reduced "dangerous overcrowding" on buses. Yet students were still not arriving on time or staying the entire school day, they found. Fatima Martin, principal of the non-profit Al Ameen Private School, which has been operating for 17 years in Dubai, complained that the KHDA waited three and a half months to publish the school's follow-up report after it received an unsatisfactory rating.

Her school was said to have made "acceptable" progress on all but one point, its action plan for improving conditions, making it subject to another follow-up. "What the KHDA is doing is totally unfair," Ms Martin said. "The inspections were conducted in March; I received the report two days back after the school has closed, and we have made a lot of progress between March and June. Now for the KHDA to publish these reports, it's not fair at all, and what purpose does it serve?

"I can't use the points mentioned in the report because we have moved a long way from then." Ms Martin added: "If I am going to be sharing this report to my staff, it will certainly have a demoralising effect, because they are going to think that the school has given us so much training, we are doing things differently, standards have risen, but why is it not reflected in the report? "There was massive training that happened in the school. We raised standards ... It doesn't really make sense to publish a report on an inspection that was conducted three and a half months back."

Of the 22 schools deemed unsatisfactory, 17 are private and five are run by the state. Another 10 schools graded "acceptable" by inspectors were revisited because they failed certain standards. Of those, three will not need another visit by inspectors, officials said. klewis@thenational.ae