x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Schools PPP future to be revealed soon

Abu Dhabi Education Council says it will announce the future of Public-Private Partnership school 'soon'.

10th grade students at the Al Taleaa Secondary School attend Islamic Studies class.
10th grade students at the Al Taleaa Secondary School attend Islamic Studies class.

ABU DHABI // The successful Public Private Partnership project launched by the Abu Dhabi Education Council five years ago may be nearing its end with the roll-out of the Government's New School Model.

PPP was designed to lay foundations for the New School Model (NSM), which was introduced in the lower grades last year, and which is designed to boost education standards.

The partnership was established on a three-year contract basis, where private operators would help the school achieve standardised goals to improve students performance and align teaching practices to international methods.

Since the deal was agreed in 2006 to allow some public schools to be managed by private sector groups, the PPP scheme has achieved successes combating demotivation among students, poor attendance, high dropout rates and uninspired teaching.

But with the roll-out of the NSM having begun, the question remains as to what will happen to those employed as part of the PPP plan.

"PPP is a tool to transfer knowledge and best practice to local principals and not a management in itself," said Dr Mugheer al Khaili, director general of Adec. "This project was meant for a finite period."

The authority said it will be announcing details about the PPP project's future soon.

Soon after the formation of Abu Dhabi's independent education authority, nine private operators signed agreements with Adec to turn around failing schools.

A team of experts from the education management companies have worked alongside local educators in 176 public schools and extended learning resources, while Adec has been responsible for providing monetary support for the programme.

The NSM lays out standards for all public schools and aims to equip students with bilingual skills and prepare them for university and careers. Adec began employing its own native English speakers as part of the model to assist local staff.

The impending conclusion of PPP will have financial implications: expatriate teachers with the PPP operators said it was unclear if they were still required in the schools and the authority needed to make a quick decision to avoid losing experts.

"Adec needs expatriate teachers as part of their own model, too," said a teacher who works with Nord Anglia."So instead of going through the recruitment process again, the PPP teachers can be absorbed," said the teacher who did not wish to be named.

"But Adec has not yet decided, so because of the job uncertainty many of them have already decided to leave."

Dr Jan Wilson, director of schools at Taaleem-EdisonLearning (TEL), which operates in four public schools, said their job was to build capacity and they always knew that at the end of three years they might be asked to withdraw their support.

"In the first year we had to lead them, now we are walking by their side while they take on the leadership role, and towards the end of the project we will stand behind and guide them."

Within a year of the handover, the TEL team brought down the failure rates in Maths from 90 per cent to 50 per cent and introduced group project work for more practical learning at Al Taalea school.

A school monitoring report by Adec stated "student behaviour, attendance and punctuality to lessons have improved as a result of the push on making the learning environment more vibrant and inviting".

Similar results have been noted by Cognition, a management company from New Zealand, which works in 26 public schools.

"From 2007, we have seen enhanced leadership, world class teaching practice and a more engaged community," said Sally Smart, middle head chief executive of Cognition.

Ms Smart said even beyond the end of the programme, they would try to be part of the upcoming reforms in the Emirates.

"We are a dynamic company, so we feel we have a lot to offer and will be looking forward to being a part the country's developments."

aahmed@thenational.ae