x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Standards to monitor all public schools

Nationwide performance standards are to be implemented as part of education reforms of system widely deemed to be failing.

Abu Dhabi // For the first time, government schools will have to measure up to a set of nationwide performance standards, as the Ministry of Education announced plans yesterday for an accreditation system for schools that could go into effect as soon as next autumn.

The plan, which followed the announcement in July of a similar accreditation process for private schools, is the latest in a series of initiatives to reinvent a state school system widely considered to be failing. Education reform has been high on the agenda for most of this decade, but various school-improvement schemes since 2000 have not had measurable results. The Government previously indicated that developing accreditation for schools was a priority, but yesterday announced for the first time details of the wide-ranging plan for state schools.

Dr Vincent Ferrandino, a consultant in the office of policy and planning at the Ministry of Education, said accreditation was necessary to ensure that the school system is functioning properly. "It allows us to take a look at the schools," Dr Ferrandino said. "Are they in fact performing in the way that we would expect and need them to perform? That is what this process is designed to do." Dr Ferrandino described the process, which will measure schools against a set of minimum standards that is now under development, as "rigorous".

Details about the accreditation process were announced during a meeting organised by the ministry's Department of Accreditation and Licensing. Shaikha Rashid al Shamsi, the department director, laid out the process for 600 zone directors, principals and teachers. The ministry is soliciting feedback from school principals and teachers and expects to solidify the standards by January, when a pilot programme will start in 10 schools. "School improvement requires an honest assessment of the current condition of state school educational programmes and a commitment to improvement," Ms Shamsi said in a statement. "This is a key part of the minister's efforts to improve the quality of state school education. Considerable effort has been expended to develop new educational programmes and training for school staff and it is important to measure the degree to which these programmes have been implemented and are effective." Accreditation will be carried out by a team of ministry officials and there will also be a peer review component. Teams involved in the school assessment process will include local educators who will work with the ministry to evaluate other schools. After the school has received a visit, a written report will be issued to the school by the Ministry outlining its recommendations. Schools that fall short will be asked to develop improvement plans. "That improvement plan would then be implemented by the school and monitored by the ministry," said Mark Stapleton, a consultant in the office of policy and planning at the ministry. School principals will be in charge of developing the improvement plans. "It will mark the first time that the state schools have gone through a state self-examination process and will be required to formulate a written plan for their own improvement. Through use of a peer review process, it will encourage collaboration among schools identifying and implementing best practices," said Ms Shamsi. Mr Stapleton said the ministry expected that every school would have areas that needed improvement. "The purpose of this exercise is to get an accurate assessment of the condition of these schools and once we determine areas of weakness to improve the schools." Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, this month called for an overhaul of the state school system on "every level", noting that he regretted that huge sums of money and effort had been spent to solve the problem to no avail, the state news agency WAM reported. The federal budget for education - Dh9.7 billion (US$2.6bn) for next year - represents about 23 per cent of Government spending. klewis@thenational.ae