x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Private school pupils do only slightly better

Higher Colleges of Technology official says private school pupils not significantly better than those educated in Government schools.

DUBAI // Emirati pupils in private schools perform only "marginally better" than their peers in Government campuses.

Most Emirati pupils in Dubai are enrolled in private school, concentrated in 22 of the 138 available, and receive low-standard education, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) says.

"The graduates from private school that enter our college are not significantly better than those that studied in government schools," said Dr Howard Reed, head of Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) in Dubai.

"Some of them are worse off than those in Government schools."

Dr Reed said yesterday at KHDA school inspections report release that 40 per cent of the men who enrolled at HCT were private-school graduates and had a significant number of problems.

"The major problems we face are discipline issues and their Arabic-language skills," he said. "They think it is OK to miss classes and attendance drops."

At Dubai American Scientific School, where 58 per cent pupils are Emirati, a large minority demonstrated negative attitudes and behaviour that often placed them and others at risk.

Attendance was poor throughout the schools, with only 30 per cent of pupils in Grade 10 and 12 attending at any one time.

Dr Reed said pupils were still not being taught "how to learn" and "do not have the readiness for university-level education".

The report validated those concerns. More than 58 per cent of Emirati pupils attend private schools in Dubai, and most are enrolled in schools that follow the national curriculum or the US system.

None of the national curriculum schools were rated good or better this year.

Fatma Al Marri, chief executive of Dubai Schools Agency, said the matter was a priority for KHDA.

"Moving forward, this is what we will heavily concentrate on, on how to improve these schools for UAE nationals," Ms Al Marri said.

"Not all Emirati families can afford to send their children to outstanding schools, so the other schools need to be brought up to standards as well."

She said there was no justification for children at private schools to receive a lower quality of education.

"They are giving up free education so they should receive the best," Ms Al Marri said.

Hind Al Muhairi, an Emirati parent of two Grade 2 children at a US-curriculum school ranked acceptable, said she was not bothered by the rating.

"I still believe government schools will not prepare my children for university," Ms Al Muhairi said. "There are several Emirati children in the school. It means they think the same way too."

But she said she would prefer the school offered more extracurricular activities.

"Other than that, it satisfies my need as a parent," Ms Al Muhairi said. "The children are safe and they pay attention to our culture."

Dr Abdulla Al Karam, director general of KHDA, said this year's inspection report highlighted whether schools were meeting the needs of Emirati pupils.

"In the national system, the curriculum offered by almost all schools remained narrow and schools provide limited choice of subjects," inspectors said. "Systems to check the reliability and consistency of assessments are not sufficiently robust."

Insufficient assessments prevent educators from understanding pupils' capabilities said the report.

The weakest teaching at most lower-rated schools was in kindergarten classes, and only a third of schools had improved safety measures.

aahmed@thenational.ae