x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

KHDA contracts put parents, students and schools on same page

The legally-binding Parent-School Contract programme has been extended to 24 schools, affecting nearly 39,000 pupils, more than half of them Emirati.

DUBAI // Legally binding contracts between parents and schools in Dubai are being extended to cover 24 schools with nearly 40,000 pupils, more than half of them Emirati.

The extension follows a successful pilot scheme this year at six schools with about 10,000 pupils, when the number of parent-school disputes fell to 32 from 40 last year.

Parents are required to sign the contract before their children can register for classes in the autumn.

The contract spells out the mutual responsibilities of schools and parents on admissions, fees, curriculum and educational programmes, attendance and punctuality, attitudes and behaviour, health and safety, transport and communication. It was drafted by Dubai’s private schools regulator, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, with input from each school.

“Schools will also be expected to put in place a zero-tolerance cyber-bullying policy, which must be clearly outlined in the contract,” the KHDA said. “The policy must ensure that parents and students using social media forums demonstrate respect for all members of the school community.”

“The contract outlines the expectations and responsibilities of both parties, protects their rights and serves as a reference guide for solving any misunderstandings that may arise,” said Amal Belhasam, head of the authority’s compliance and resolution commission.

The KHDA intends eventually to introduce the contract in all private schools.

The contract is aimed at cutting the number of parent-school disputes.

“These can relate to the students’ admissions, student conduct, health and safety,” said Mrs Belhasam. “It varies hugely depending on the time of year. For example, at the start of the year, it may be fee - or admission - related complaints. During the semester, it could be student or teacher conduct.”

Mrs Belhasam said the focus has been on schools with large Emirati populations because “UAE nationals are a top priority of the National Agenda”.

School leaders say the contract does not introduce any new rules, but it does give teeth to the existing ones.

“We always had rules … it just, it gives it some meat,” said Delice Scotto, principal of the American Academy in Al Mizhar, which was among the first schools to take part in the programme.

“We’re all doing this together and I think people like to feel that way – that the school, the KHDA and parents and students, we’re all working on this together.

“They always had the handbook, but who knows whether those were read as carefully as this is read. This becomes a contract, so it has a little bit more weight than a page in somebody’s handbook.”

Nadine Tarazi, principal at Sharjah American International School, said the contract, which is published in English and Arabic, has improved communication.

“It’s a good thing to have this contract, everything is transparent for everyone and it’s a good step to enhance the communication between all parties involved, all stakeholders,” Mrs Tarazi said.

“There’s nothing surprising in the parent-school contract, everything in the school contract, they already know it, they just have to sign it and when they sign it, it means, ‘Yes we agree’.”

About 31,000 Emirati children attend private schools in Dubai. The 24 schools with the contract have 38,624 pupils, of whom 22,885 are Emiratis.

The schools are Greenwood International School, New World School Private, Al Mawakeb School, Al Maaref Private School, Mirdif Private School, New Academy School, Sharjah & American International Private School, International Academic School, Al Arqm Private School, Al Mizhar American Academy School, Dar Al Marefa School, Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Islamic Institute, Dubai National School, Al Ittihad Private School, Dubai Modern Education School, Dubai National School, Dubai International Private School, Al Ittihad Private School, Al Khaleej National School, Modern Skills School, the School of Research Science, Dubai International Private School, Dubai Arabian American Private School and Al Shurooq Private School.

rpennington@thenational.ae