x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Private schools to face regulation

Private schools that fail to meet new minimum standards will be closed, warned the Ministry of Education.

DUBAI // Private schools that fail to meet new minimum standards will be closed, the Ministry of Education said yesterday. The Government has issued a new set of by-laws to ensure that every child in the UAE receives a quality, uniform education. The laws mean that schools will have to undergo a process of accreditation to ensure they meet minimum standards, which will be set by the ministry within a year. Schools will have to start complying with the new standards in three years and those that fail to make the grade will be closed.

"The ministry hopes that these new by-laws will play an important role in creating high standards of education and outstanding learning outcomes in line with the achievements, development and progress of all other fields in this nation," said Rashid Salem Lakrebani al Nuaimi, the ministry's director-general. Schools that are already accredited by outside organisations may not have to go through the new process.

"We are considering acknowledging those existing international accreditation organisations as long as they meet our standards," said Mark Stapleton, in the office of policy and planning at the ministry. This could mean the ministry will accept accreditation from outside organisations such as the Middle States Association, an American organisation that accredits international schools following an American curriculum, or affiliation with the Central Board of Secondary Education, which oversees schools running its curriculum and administers examinations.

Previously there were no regulations in place to ensure that every child in the UAE received a quality, uniform education. The ministry issued and renewed licences but there was no common standard that schools had to meet. Now, the ministry intends to introduce national minimum standards for the provision of private school education, to ensure that children in private schools receive the same quality of education they would in their home countries.

At a meeting at the ministry yesterday, officials unveiled the timetable for accreditation. The standards will be developed over the next year and in approximately three years an accreditation committee will start to rule on whether schools can keep their licences. Ministry officials estimate that every school in the country should be accredited within six years, in a process that will take approximately 18 months for each institution.

"Even undergoing the process of accreditation leads to school improvement," said Mr Stapleton. Several schools in Dubai, he said, were accredited by external organisations. In the past year, the emirate has given schools incentives to pursue such accreditation by allowing them to raise their fees above the level of other schools. The by-laws also make provision for ministerial decrees including a list of rights for families dealing with private schools and guidelines for the minimum educational qualifications expected of school staff.

The new edicts replace an old set of by-laws that have governed private schools since 1999. The new by-laws have 26 articles, substantially fewer than the previous 100 regulations which insisted that, among other things, every classroom must have a desk and chair for the teacher and every kindergarten should have a cork notice board. @Email:klewis@thenational.ae