x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

UAE sets up rating system for special-needs centres

The standards will apply to 38 non-governmental special education and rehabilitation centres in the country.

DUBAI // Centres for people with special needs will be evaluated and rated under new standards developed by the Ministry of Social Affairs.

The standards will apply to 38 non-governmental special education and rehabilitation centres licensed by the ministry.

The criteria were devised by a committee of government officials and academics to improve the quality of services for people with disabilities, said Nazem Fawzi, an adviser for the ministry.

There are 93 standards with 428 indicators, he said. They address issues such as facilities, nutrition, administration, curriculum, student assessment, client-staff ratios and parent relationships.

"The most important thing is to unify the services provided at centres," said Mr Fawzi. "Some have really good services but some are still at the beginning."

Centres will begin to be rated on how well they meet the standards within a year, he estimated.

"We will classify all centres according to quality," he said, comparing the initiative to the way the Knowledge and Human Development Authority evaluates private schools in Dubai.

There will be incentives for centres that perform well. "Centres that reach excellence, we will encourage them to continue like this," said Mr Fawzi. "It will be easier for them to hire new staff."

He added: "Some people who give centres money, support, they ask us which centre we should give to. The good centres will be recommended by the Ministry of Social Affairs."

Programme administrators and staff gathered at the ministry's headquarters yesterday to hear a presentation about the system.

Maha Elazar, the director of Awladouna Centre in Sharjah, said she strongly supported criteria for special needs centres. "I thank them," she said. "What they are doing is good."

But she thought the standards for buildings were unrealistic. Her centre, which serves 80 children and young adults, is located in villas. "It's my dream to have the full facilities under one roof, but I can't afford it," she said. "We need financial support."

Other than the building criteria, she did not anticipate any problems satisfying the standards.

"Whatever is there, we have in Awladouna," she said. "If you don't have this, shut the centre and leave. We should have all the criteria."