x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Private firms pulling out of public schools

End of the line for many of the 700 expert educational advisers who came to Abu Dhabi to establish teaching projects in 180 schools.

The Salamah bint Butti School for Girls is one of the 181 public schools currently managed by a private sector group.
The Salamah bint Butti School for Girls is one of the 181 public schools currently managed by a private sector group.

ABU DHABI // By September private education companies will no longer be supporting 116 public schools in the capital.

The Public Private Partnership (PPP) was established in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and the Western Region, in more than 180 schools by the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) in 2006 to raise standards in failing government schools.

But the programme will be completely phased out by the end of next year.

"Operators from many KG and the Cycle 1 schools - Grades 1 to Grade 5 - will be leaving this year," Neal Mather, lead cluster manager at Adec said yesterday.

Only 65 schools will continue to receive PPP support for an additional 12 months.

Mr Mather said the project was initiated to build capacity and to provide the initial impetus for NSM, and that it had served its purpose.

Wherever a PPP operator moves out of a public school, the government's New School Model (NSM) will be implemented.

The end of the PPP programme also means the end of the road for many specialists who moved to Abu Dhabi to work in these schools. More than 700 experts work in the 181 schools that were part of the PPP project.

Mr Mather said Adec would be interested in hiring experts from some of the groups. But one adviser who worked in a PPP school for the operator Nord Anglia, which was partnered by Adec, expressed dissatisfaction at the offer: "I love to teach, but going back into the classroom would be a huge step down in my career."

Michael Gibbs, programme director at CfBT, the British education trust, said many of their advisory staff hope to be employed by Adec as licenced teachers or heads of faculty, especially those who had supported the implementation of the NSM.

"It would be a shame if their wealth of knowledge and expertise were lost."

Mr Gibbs said CfBT will continue to support some Cycle 2 and Cycle 3 schools (Grade 6 to Grade 12) for another year.

"We will complete our partnership in these schools, which have received intensive support for up to four or five years," he said.

"One of the measures of [the programme's] success is that we can confidently leave schools in the knowledge that they can continue their improvement journey independently."

He said there had been a transformation in the attitude of teachers and their willingness to embrace new ideas, particularly in analysing students' individual needs.

When the nine international education management companies were signed on by the authority, issues of low attendance, poor behaviour and outdated teaching methods had to be addressed. Operators were provided a budget to invest in resources to meet the outcomes of a model centred of students.

"The PPP operators have been very successful: the students are more engaged and they have managed to change the entire school environment," said Mr Mather.

According to Adec, the schools moving out of the PPP programme will be provided with expatriate teachers and head of faculty to continue their reform as they take on NSM.

The NSM, which is also based on international standards and puts an emphasis on a bilingual education, will rely on licenced teachers to work alongside local educators, raise students' attainment levels and improve teaching methods. Last year, the model was implemented in 171 public schools up to Grade 3.

Every PPP school that converts to NSM will also employ two head teachers: one responsible for the English faculty and another responsible for the Arabic faculty.

"Adec will provide support to these schools that no longer have an external management team," said Mr Mather. The authority will also continue to centrally fund resources in the schools.

aahmed@thenational.ae