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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Low-rated schools in Dubai ‘will wither on the vine’ until they raise more money

The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) released its annual report on Tuesday, which found 60 schools were rated as ‘acceptable or below’.
Schools can apply to the regulator for an “exceptional increase in fees” but must satisfy a series of requirements before approval will be given. Silvia Razgova / The National
Schools can apply to the regulator for an “exceptional increase in fees” but must satisfy a series of requirements before approval will be given. Silvia Razgova / The National

DUBAI // The lowest ranked schools will “wither on the vine” until they raise more money for the good of their pupils, educators say.

Ten schools, catering for about 15,500 pupils, have been rated “weak” and altogether 94,000 attend schools that are acceptable or below, Dubai’s education regulator said this week.

The bottom 10 can only raise fees by 2.4 per cent, about the level of inflation, meaning they have little money to invest in better facilities or teachers.

But Jeff Evans, from Learning Key Education Consultancy, said the issue was more complex than simply giving resources to failing schools.

“Among the acceptable or below rated schools you have schools with low fees that are turning a good profit – because the owner is not willing to invest in teachers and resources,” Mr Evans said.

“But then you have those that have genuinely very little resources due to the low fees and simply cannot afford to invest in getting better.”

Some Pakistani schools are trying to secure support from their home government and community associations.

“There was talk of getting the Government here to support some of these schools but with the economic situation I don’t know how likely that is,” Mr Evans said.

“There is also an argument to say although these schools are rated weak, they have made significant improvements over recent years, particularly compared to their home countries.”

The Knowledge and Human Development Authority released its annual report on Wednesday, which found 60 schools were rated as ‘acceptable or below’.

Schools rated as outstanding can lift fees by double the Education Cost Index base rate – a rise of about 4.8 per cent for parents.

Those rated as very good and good can increase by 1.75 and 1.5 times the base rate.

Schools can apply to the regulator for an “exceptional increase” but must satisfy a series of requirements before approval will be given.

Clive Pierrepont, director of communications at education provider Taaleem, said failing schools were between a “rock and a hard place”, with rising inflation and expectations but dwindling income.

“The lowest performing schools, those that need the most help and investment, have the lowest fee increases percentage wise and proportionally, because 2.4 per cent of Dh10,000 is a lot different to 4.8 per cent of Dh100,000,” Mr Pierrepont said.

“For-profit schools will get little sympathy from their parents. However, there is merit in looking into how to help schools founded for altruistic reasons. They deserve special consideration and support.”

A school will only improve its ratings by hiring leaders that inspire staff and providing professional development, which requires investment, he said.

“Without working capital and investment to help them rise above mere survival mode, many of these schools that have long served the community will wither on the vine,” Mr Pierrepont said.

Emily Jardine, reviews editor at whichschooladvisor.com, said it was essential for schools to invest in “dynamic and inspirational” leadership and bring in highly talented teachers.

“Whereas schools might feel pressure to invest in facilities, we’ve seen that more important than facilities is leadership,” Ms Jardine said.

“The schools that have managed to improve their standing and offer higher quality education for their students, which directly and positively impacts students’ progress and attainment, are schools that have invested in leadership and teaching talent.”

Lower ranked schools that have good leadership will most likely improve, she said.

nhanif@thenational.ae