x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Tougher education law for Abu Dhabi's 183 private schools

Take our poll: New law will give the Abu Dhabi Education Council clout to govern Abu Dhabi's private schools and ensure all are maintaining expected standards.

Students of Raha International School in Abu Dhabi. A new law signed into effect by the Executive Council of Abu Dhabi will allow the education council to better regulate private schools across the emirate. Delores Johnson / The National
Students of Raha International School in Abu Dhabi. A new law signed into effect by the Executive Council of Abu Dhabi will allow the education council to better regulate private schools across the emirate. Delores Johnson / The National

ABU DHABI // Fourteen years of vague and confusing education regulations were swept aside yesterday and replaced with comprehensive legislation to govern every private school in Abu Dhabi.

The new laws will regulate every aspect of private education from health and safety to hiring practices and curriculum modification.

Their first provisions will be enforced this year and include tougher child protection measures. “Safety and security of children on campus is a key component of these laws,” said Dr Maryam Ahmed Al Ali, a policy chief at Adec, the Abu Dhabi schools regulator.

“The onus of ensuring children are safe and secure on campus will be on the school principal.”

The new law details the legal rights and responsibilities of the emirate’s 183 private schools, which teach about 185,000 pupils – two thirds of the school-age population.

It “includes federal and local regulations and is based on internationally followed guidelines,” said Hamad Al Dhaheri, an executive director at Adec. “It will provide more transparency and a legal basis for action.”

Before now, private schools operated on a combination of a federal law dating to 1999 and a series of bylaws introduced in 2008.

Private education providers have long asked for an overhaul of bylaws that did not provide the necessary transparency or a consistent basis for operation.

The new law was developed by Adec over two years, signed into effect by the Executive Council last month and announced yesterday.

Its 23 chapters and 87 articles make education providers more accountable for maintaining Adec’s standards.

Schools will be given three years to implement the law to its full extent: 52 articles will be introduced this year, 19 in the second and 13 during the 2015/2016 academic year.

“The private sector is very important in Abu Dhabi,” said Dr Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili, director general of Adec. “Expatriate families expect a quality of education that is compatible with what is offered in their home countries so that when they move back their children can continue there.”

The 52 regulations that will be enforced this year include tougher child protection measures, school licensing procedures and health and safety standards.

Dr Al Ali said several new components had to be introduced to keep pace with the changing times.

No form of bullying or physical, emotional or verbal abuse will be tolerated. “In case there is an incident the principal has to report it immediately to Adec and, if there is a need, we’ll have to dismiss the offender,” he said.

During the next academic year, schools must comply with a further 19 articles governing staffing methods, school management and professional licensing procedures.

“Schools will need to form a board of governors and all teachers will have to go through 25 hours of professional training every year,” said Dr Al Ali. “Teacher licensing, which is an international practice, will be introduced as well.”

Although schools must currently register any new hire with Adec, it is largely left to the Ministry of Labour to check qualifications and issue a teaching visa. Under the new law, schools will have to seek official licensing from Adec for both teachers and principals. The procedure is still under review but will involve thorough background and credential checks.

The final 13 laws will come into force in the 2015-2016 academic year and concern school governance, accreditation and building requirements.

Adec will carry out more quality checks on the curriculums offered by schools and non-accredited programmes will not be approved.

“The curriculum should be broad and address the educational needs of the pupils,” said Dr Al Ali. “Schools have to follow what is required of the curriculum in the country where it originates. For example, a school offering an American curriculum must follow a recognised system from the US.”

Adec officials will be surveying schools to identify shortcomings and help them to implement the new regulations.

Clive Pierrepont, director of communications at Taaleem, which operates the Raha International School in the capital, said the schools had not seen the new law but were looking forward to a proactive and positive approach to solving educational issues that schools and parents face.

“We hope the revised regulations address the many anomalies that have arisen from previous outdated versions,” he said.

aahmed@thenational.ae