x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

'Unsatisfactory' schools will not be closed

Underperforming schools in Dubai will not be shut down but authority plans to limit expansion.

DUBAI // The head of the emirate's education authority says he has no plans to shut down schools rated "unsatisfactory" in Dubai's latest round of school inspections.

Dr Abdulla al Karam, the director general of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), said, however, he would limit the expansion plans of those who did not perform well.

Five Indian and Pakistani schools were rated unsatisfactory, according to the latest results from the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau (DSIB).

Jameela al Muhairi, the chief of DSIB, said efforts taken by most of the unsatisfactory schools had no impact. "They have the intention but they have to seek external expert consultation and support because they do not have the capability of improving themselves," she said.

The authority visits schools rated unsatisfactory every three months to check on their progress.

Tabinda Alfhizala, the principal of the Pakistan Education Academy, which was again rated unsatisfactory, said she was aware of the school's shortcomings, but added she needed more time to bring about changes. "Our pace of progress is determined by our fee structure," she said. "Since we're a school operating on a low fee structure, changes take time to implement."

Ms Alfhizala, who recently joined the school, said it was investing in professional development for teachers.

Dr al Karam said he was aware of the limitations of schools, especially those catering to middle and low-income families, and had asked them to look for co-operative solutions.

"Each school has to develop an action plan and the management knows that some aspects of that plan cannot be achieved alone," he said. "When we are approached by school management for advice, we ask them to weigh their resources and see where they need added support.

"We tell the Pakistani schools to reach out to their community for systematic assistance."

Dr al Karam also advocates partnerships with other schools. "Reach out to other schools and ask them for help to work together on areas of weaknesses," he said, citing the partnership between the Indian High School and the Zabeel Public High School, which raised their respective standards in Arabic language and computers.



A little cooperation goes a long way

Every week, four teachers from two Dubai schools take time out from teaching students to teach each other.

Two of the teachers are from Zabeel Public High School, and the other two are from the Indian High School (IHS). The Zabeel teachers help their Indian colleagues learn how to teach better Arabic, while the IHS teachers reciprocate by helping their Arabic colleagues learn how to give better computer lessons.

Their symbiotic partnership began a year ago, after the first round of school inspections was conducted by the Knowledge and Human Development (KHDA).

Teaching of the Arabic language did not impress inspectors when they first visited IHS in 2009.

Instead of investing huge portions of school fees to train his Arabic team, Ashok Kumar, the school’s chief executive, decided to take advantage of the experts at the Arabic school next door.

“We call the exchange programme ‘Let us Rise Together’,” he said. “We have teachers from Zabeel come in amd share best practices with our teachers, and we return the favour by giving them ICT classes.”

This year, the inspectors were singing a different tune and ranked IHS as “good” in both teaching and student attainment of the Arabic language.

Ebtihal Ghannam, head of the Arabic department at IHS, said the teachers from Zabeel brought in new ideas.

“Before, Arabic was very boring for our students,” she said. “But the teachers taught us how to make lessons interesting by connecting them to real-life situations and activities.”

Faiza Abdul Rahim, principal of Zabeel, says they have benefited equally from the partnership.

“Our teachers are using different computer programmes more creatively to explain concepts to children,” she said.