x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Number of pupils rises nearly 10%

The number of children attending school has increased by 9.7 per cent with 750,234 pupils registered during the 2008/2009 school year.

The number of children attending school has increased by 9.7 per cent with 750,234 pupils registered during the 2008/2009 school year. Of these, 487,861 attended one of the 462 private schools, which have increased by eight since 2007/2008. However, the total number of schools remained relatively unchanged over the same period. According to the National Bureau of Statistics report, there were 1,181 schools in 2007/2008 and 1,183 in 2008/2009.

The figures raise questions of how the school system is coping with the increase of students. But Dr Natasha Ridge, a research fellow specialising in education at the Dubai School of Government, said a lot more data was needed. "You need a lot more information to be able to make conclusions," said Dr Ridge. To help parents assess the level of educational services, the Government should publish data of pupils' performance over time, she said. Some countries keep track of results at standardised tests for school grades five, nine and 12. The results are published for each school, giving parents a chance to select well-performing schools.

"In Australia, the UK and other places, this is public knowledge," she said. "Currently, in the UAE we do not have any information that allows parents to compare schools based on the performance of students." Standardised testing would be more difficult to implement here because of the differences among the schools, with 13 different curricula being taught in the country. Other useful data would look at teachers' qualifications and experience, said Dr Ridge. Statistics to analyse the preferences of UAE national parents are also missing. Figures from the report showed that significantly more pupils are being privately educated, increasing by more than 64,000 to 487,861. The number of teachers at private schools has leapt from 17,385 in 2007/2008 to 24,535 in 2008/2009. In the same period, the number of teachers at state schools dipped from 22,778 to 22,732.

The private education sector handles most pupils. Nearly twice as many students, 487,861, attend private schools than public ones, 262,373. Vtodorova@thenational.ae