x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Schools 'fail 100,000 children'

Annual inspection by education watchdog finds 13 private Dubai schools to be unsatisfactory and 65 acceptable, with most schools unsuccessful in improving their overall rankings.

Despite an overall grim report on the quality of education, 89 per cent of parents say they are satisfied.
Despite an overall grim report on the quality of education, 89 per cent of parents say they are satisfied.

DUBAI // Most private schools did not improve their overall rankings, inspection results released yesterday by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) show.

And more than 100,000 private school pupils receive only an acceptable or unsatisfactory education. KHDA, the emirate's education watchdog, inspected 138 schools.

Thirteen schools were rated unsatisfactory, 65 were found to be acceptable and 49 good. Nine schools dropped a rank this year.

A total of 95,249 pupils received an education regarded as acceptable, while 10,988 received one graded unsatisfactory.

But 11 schools, five more than last year, received an outstanding rating in the latest report. There are 58,872 more pupils attending top-rated schools in Dubai than there were in 2008-2009 when the inspections were initiated.

The Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau (DSIB), the inspections arm of KHDA, said in a report that despite the improvement at schools in the past four years, the pace of progress had slowed.

"In 2010-11, around 56 per cent of students attended acceptable or unsatisfactory schools. This year this percentage has reduced only slightly, to 54 per cent," the report said.

"Although fewer students attend such schools in comparison with the first year of inspection, a significant number of these schools have been unsatisfactory over the full period of inspection."

Dr Abdulla Al Karam, the director general of KHDA, said underperforming schools would continue to feel pressure.

"Some take longer to improve," Dr Al Karam said. "But they better wake up or they will find themselves out of business. It is in the parents' hands."

Despite an overall grim report on the quality of education, a survey of parents during the inspections revealed 89 per cent were satisfied.

Amna Al Falasi, an Emirati with children at Al Mizhar American Academy for Girls (AAG) and Universal American School, is one of them.

"I think the schools are providing them with the opportunities they need to tap their potential," said Ms Al Falasi who has two girls and a boy at the schools, which were rated good. "The schools are flexible and they are always ready to change."

But she said there was room for improvement in Arabic and Islamic education, an opinion shared by the inspections committee.

"I think that is a minus point in all private schools here," Ms Al Falasi said.

A mother whose daughter attends primary school at the International School of Choueifat said she agreed with the report, and was unhappy with the school's acceptable rating.

"I think they need to do more at the lower stages to stimulate the children," she said. "They should be doing more out of the textbook."

The report found schools ranked as acceptable had not shown much improvement. On the other hand, those rated outstanding displayed high levels of pupil engagement, enhanced teaching strategies and followed an enriched curriculum.

Jameela Al Muhairi, the chief of DSIB, said the bureau noticed a continuing improvement but several shortcomings still existed in the low-quality schools.

"Quality of teaching and learning, leadership and curriculum need to be improved," Ms Al Muhairi said.

"Assessments conducted do not inform about the pupils progress and capability. Self-evaluation conducted by the leaders did not reflect the reality of the school."

She said most schools were unaware of the care and educational support needed by children with special needs, and lacked professionals equipped to handle them.

The report also found that while English, mathematics and science teaching had improved, standards in Arabic instruction faltered.

Ms Al Muhairi said the degree of improvement in students' progress in Arabic over the four-year inspection period continued to be "considerably less than in other key subjects".

"KHDA will not allow this to continue," she said. "It is important that Arab pupils are able to use their mother tongue confidently."

Pupils in most private schools in Dubai are not progressing well in Arabic.

Native speakers were most affected as many schools failed to provide a proper programme to help them to be fluent in their mother tongue.

Few schools were also following the general requirements laid down by the Ministry of Education to teach Arabic and Islamic education.

"These students are taught as additional learners, which means they are often not challenged or supported to reach required levels in their mother tongue, of which they are capable," Ms Al Muhairi said.

Maya Hindi, vice principal of the Dubai Carmel School, which received an acceptable rating, said the authority must give schools more time for efforts to show.

"Inspections have been a learning process," Ms Hindi said. "But we are also dealing with factors that affect our rate of progress, like a restricted fee structure and short time to show results. We need a gap of at least two years to make a significant difference."

The school has been asked to improve its self-evaluation process and better meet the needs of pupils with learning difficulties.

Ms Hindi said one of the recommendations the school found hard to work on was measuring pupils' performance.

"This was new for us and was a challenge," she said. "We have an action plan but its application will take time."

None of the schools following the national curriculum received a good or higher rating this year. There are 16,197 pupils at these schools.

"The overall performance of these schools remains broadly the same as last year, with almost all being evaluated as acceptable," the report said.

This year's results show the best teaching and learning practices are at schools following the UK and International Baccalaureate curriculums. French schools also received glowing report cards, with strong leadership and responsive governance as the biggest development.

"In all four [French] schools, students demonstrate excellent behaviour and positive attitudes to learning," the report said.

All five Iranian schools, on their first round of inspections, were rated as acceptable.

The report also found that only a third of the 30 American system campuses used official US state standards to plan lessons and assessments.

Results for the Indian and Pakistani schools were announced earlier this year.

All results and individual reports can be found on www.khda.gov.ae

aahmed@thenational.ae