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Dubai schools, are you listening?

The XPRESS exposé on inspection malpractices touched a raw nerve with teachers, students and parents as scores of them wrote to us voicing their concerns. Here are abridged versions of some letters we got over the week

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It’s all ‘fixed’
It’s always like that. All preparations are done and it’s even fixed in whose class the supervisor will take the inspectors. Everything is pre-planned and all the beautification is done only to please the inspectors.

Deceptiveness has increased
Hats off to XPRESS for the true report. I cannot understand why KHDA is not ready to accept the fact that they were fooled and are still being fooled. Who says the standard in schools has gone up after inspections? The standard of their deceptiveness has increased and the standard of education has gone down.

Stop it for the sake of our family
I truly agree with the writer. I have been undergoing the same stress for more than three years and it has not only affected my health, spoiled my family life but also made me manipulate my teachings. The regular stay-backs till 4pm and even working at the weekends has made my life terrible. Authorities should look into this matter by halting inspection not only for the sake of teachers but their family as well.

Come without notice if you have to
We are made to prepare weeks in advance for KHDA. We don’t sleep, eat, or teach whole-heartedly for fear of not having (waste of time) documentation prepared for the inspectors. Most of the time they hardly look at anything. This whole process is silly. You want to evaluate a school, come by without notice!

It’s a performing arts school
I am glad someone had the guts to speak out. I am a teacher in one such school that becomes a performing arts school for that week. If the KHDA has experienced inspectors who can see through the act, why do they inform the school and give them time to rehearse their acts?

Broken promises
God bless XPRESS for publishing this article. So many troubled teachers put in their heart and soul to achieve the targets set by the management. Many promises are made before the KHDA-week but none are fulfilled. Poor teachers are losers all the way in this bargain.

Relentless pressure
Teaching has turned into pressure instead of being a pleasure due to these inspections. The management troubles the teachers to such an extent that we are forced to sacrifice our family just for that ‘outstanding’ rating. And believe me, it is not just that week which is the problem. Once the inspection is done the planning for the next inspection starts, from lesson planning, to mock inspections, until the lessons are rehearsed completely. I am sure many teachers like me are thinking of changing their profession because the salaries are just not worth the tension.

I put up a false show
I am a teacher at a well-known school in Dubai. When I joined in 1990, I used to concentrate on teaching, but now I concentrate on my Daily Lesson Plan (D.L.P) and on putting up a false show.
Anonymous, Dubai, UAE

It’s a dog and pony show
It is a ‘dog and pony’ show. I understand the reasons behind the inspection, but I wish KHDA can ensure that teachers’ contracts are honoured. The inspections shouldn’t just be about the well-being of students and parents, but teachers too.
JM, Abu Dhabi, UAE

We get peanuts for our hard work
I’m a teacher in a three decade old school. I’m tired of the amount of pressure and stress we have to face. I wish any parent, KHDA or a reader could understand. A teacher is paid a meagre salary, but is expected to work 24/7. Recently, I asked my principal why we have such a low salary and the answer I got was: “You work for only six hours”. What about the corrections, setting of question papers and other requirements demanded by the school? When it comes to pay, we get peanuts. I wish KHDA listens to the voices of teachers as well. In my school, some teachers have been working for 20 - 22 years and their salary has not even reached Dh5,000.

We are frustrated
The contents of the article are very true. Teachers are frustrated with the hectic preparation for inspection. There should be surprise inspections.
The teachers are paid very low salaries. With Dh3,000 how can a teacher support a family?

A lifetime of back problems
On numerous occasions I carry home 27 notebooks to check the work of students. After years of doing this, I have ruined by back and now suffer from a lifetime of back problems, going to chiropractors and taking physiotherapy from time to time. Private schools in Dubai do not allow for sufficient marking time in school hours. We request KHDA to look into our plight. Planning, assessment and feedback are major components of quality education. In today’s time, teachers spend hours on the internet searching for material, corresponding with parents via email in addition to teaching and delivering lessons. However, schools fill a teacher’s working day with lessons after lessons. Teachers are not given realistic time to plan or mark the work of students. Most of this is expected to be completed in a teacher’s personal hours at home. We request KHDA to work out a realistic planning and marking time so that students who are paying such hefty fees get quality education. As a monitoring body KHDA should take a close look at how much time it takes for a teacher to read, for example, one English essay and multiply by the number of students in each class. On an average, upscale private schools have 25 students per class. Even if it takes 10 minutes per notebook, that is 250 minutes (four hours) per class set. Is that built into the teacher’s working day? KHDA should also give guidelines as to how much time it realistically takes to prepare for a 60-minute class. Also, there are different curriculums; in some the testing is multiple choice, some are multi-criteria etc... There are different board and different teaching hours associated with each type of curriculum.

Most schools are fixated on paperwork and board displays to please KHDA. Although this is important, unfortunately, this does not lead to quality education.
Anonymous, Dubai, UAE


Bad students given off days
I completely agree with the XPRESS report. In one school, all kids with bad attitude were given holidays during the KHDA visit.
B, Dubai

They made us mop floors
Just before inspections, the teachers tell us to bring sponges and small pieces of cloth, detergents and other cleaning stuff. We are made to clean walls, tables and chairs and mop the floors all day.

But that used to happen like a year ago — they have stopped doing it now. Now the teachers tell us which lesson they are going to teach during inspections. My teacher prepares the lessons and gets us to make related charts. Then she teaches in an extraordinary way. On normal days she is nothing like that. During inspections, teachers and staff become extra strict, like when the bell rings and it’s time to go home, they make sure we go in a single line. On other days, no one cares where we go. In assemblies, we are made to give speeches and stage plays. On normal days there is nothing. The principal does not even attend the assembly. But when KHDA people come, the principal, vice-principal, coordinators everyone attends the assembly.

When some girls told KHDA inspectors how the teachers fake it and how they made them clean the school etc. they were called to the principal’s office and scolded. It happened two-three times. We are made to sit in groups when the KHDA comes, to give the impression that we interact and exchange ideas with teachers and other students, but in normal days it’s not like that.
Anonymous, Dubai

KHDA time is like a movie time
KHDA time in school is like movie time. The whole thing is shot like a film scene and presented to KHDA. Even the KHDA people know the fact so why this drama?Anonymous


Our studies go for a toss
I hate inspections. Our studies go for a toss during inspections as the teachers get busy preparing for KHDA.
As a student I feel this is very deceptive and cruel on the part of schools. Our parents spend so much money to give us the best in education and we get nothing in return. During inspections everything changes — walls are painted, there are flowers all around. Our seating arrangements are also changed. Books are corrected everyday.
On other days the teachers take our books rarely once in a month for correction. In grade nine, my book was corrected just once in the entire year. After inspections everything goes back to normal. My school got an outstanding rating. While the teachers and other students were cheering for our school I was kind of disappointed.

Walls painted, plants planted
Before the inspection, walls are painted, plants are planted, and shades are added in the school in a bid to impress inspectors and get good ratings. It’s a drama. KHDA needs to do surprise inspections.

Mega drama
I totally agree with the author. It’s a bitter truth that schools set up a ‘mega drama’ that runs for one week to fool the inspectors.

My school has turned into a skit
I am a grade seven student at a school in Oud Metha. Ever since we learnt that KHDA is coming the whole school has turned into a skit. For the past two weeks teachers have not been teaching anything. Instead, they’ve been practicing lessons they are going to teach when the inspectors visit their class.

Big headache for students
I feel inspections are a big headache for students and teachers. Because of inspections, the school management has postponed our exams, giving us only a few months to prepare for board examinations.

Lab experiment
I hope the KHDA sees what’s written here. I have rarely gone to my school laboratory. But recently my teacher took us to the laboratory and showed an experiment that she is going to perform in front of KHDA inspectors. She told us not to stare blankly, otherwise the KHDA would know that we rarely visit the lab.

Huge drama
I am a Grade Nine student at a well-known school in Dubai. Our school has been putting up a huge drama for KHDA. For each subject, the students are expected to make powerpoint presentations and present them before inspectors. This is a huge burden on us. We have our first semester examinations coming up and are not able to prepare for them. On behalf of students, I would like to suggest that KHDA should give only a week’s notice to schools.

Exams postponed
Exams are postponed when the inspections are around the corner. Our hard work during summer vacations is wasted as the teachers start teaching us other term portions.

I can tell you that students of each school are very happy that this truth has been revealed. It’s like a dream come true.


Usual tricks
Salute to the reporter as he has described a great spectrum of what’s going on. I would like to pen down a few things I have heard from my kids. (1) Teachers who shout are very polite during the KHDA week. (2) No stranger is allowed to pass the reception. (3) Less homework but have to carry all books. (4) Smaller grades — all books are kept in the class, but lot of work sent out to parents to make charts etc. Changing of seats is common in all classes as the inspector sits in the class for the entire period. Normally he/she takes the back seat and interacts with kids around him or her. So they make sure the brightest are put at the back.
Anonymous, Dubai, UAE

It’s an ordeal
Last year my child kept complaining about the 15-day ordeal students had to undergo before and during the inspections. Changes they saw included (a) Better lighting in classrooms (b) One-to-one teaching (c) Interactive sessions (d) Classroom exercise (e) Slower teaching (f) Better technology (g) More practical interactions than just theory. Once the inspections were over, there was a mad rush to finish the portions. Special mention of an Indian school which got an exceptional rating, but has not done anything about its overflowing drain.

Why not a surprise visit?
As a parent I am upset with the kinds of roles schools play in getting ready for inspection. Why not a surprise visit? It’s sad that children are made part of such fake shows by schools who should actually set the standards of truth in children and follow them in real life.

Dramatic change
Thanks to XPRESS for being so truthful and taking the bold step to publish this report. My son who goes to one of the so-called ‘outstanding’ schools came home after the KHDA inspection and said how his maths teacher was so loving and caring in the presence of KHDA inspectors. She addressed the students as ‘my child’ and said encouraging words like ‘very good question’ and ‘good job’ She also used a projector which she didn’t use even once earlier.

Take this report to KHDA
All words in the report are true and presently happening in both my children’s school which got ‘outstanding’ grades. Dear XPRESS please take this report with our comments to KHDA.

Project work to impress KHDA
There was so much hype in my daughter’s school (she is in grade two) during the KHDA week. For the whole week the teacher gave her project works beyond her capability. Obviously all this was just to impress the KHDA.

Project work to impress KHDA
Salute to XPRESS for showing what actually happens in schools during KHDA inspections. Last week, there was an inspection at my child’s school. Because of it the school bus came 15 minutes early. They even had a rehearsal of it on the previous Thursday. And what are they teaching students — to cheat and create drama?

Racist atmosphere at ‘good’ school
My children’s school has been rated ‘good’ for two consecutive years. All that is written in this report is true for that school. In addition, the atmosphere is racist in secondary sections so much so that some students refuse to go back after the summer vacation. They suffer from mental torture and depression.

Handwash eyewash
My sons’ school provides hand-wash soaps in bathrooms during inspections.

Missing notebooks
My child’s notebooks were missing for weeks. I sent several reminders but when there was no response, I visited the school and met the supervisor. She said: “You see we are busy for two weeks as the inspection will start next week. Kindly excuse us.”

Big farce
My daughter’s school is trying to establish itself under its own brand after a fallout with the parent franchiser. For the last two weeks, a big drama is going on there.

New methods like graphs and charts are being used in lower classes to impress inspectors. But the children are at a loss as they haven’t been taught about them. The inspection is turning out to be a big farce.

Of paint smell and fake perfection
Absolutely true. I was wondering whom to speak to, or whether my child and I are the only ones who noticed this. Every day she tells me about the paint smell and the funny, fake perfection of the teachers and management.
J Krishnan

Give schools two weeks notice
My child has been asked to grow herbs at home and take them to school as they have inspections. Like financial audits, KHDA must give around two weeks notice to schools. If the school is organised and maintains high standards, it should not worry about inspections..
Vidur, Dubai

(Editor’s note: Most letters carry no names as they have been sent to us on condition of anonymity. Names of schools have been deliberately removed from the posts)


More dirty tricks

  • More shocking revelations came to light from the feedback. Here are a few examples:
  • Last year a school got its students to mop floors ahead of the inspections
  • Many schools postponed exams to prepare for inspections
  • Troublesome students were given off during inspections
  • Some schools took carpets and other decor on rent

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Latest Comment

Since the date has been declared for the inspection to various schools. All teachers and supervisors are busy in making artificial, fake arrangements in class to please the inspection team. Due to inspection children are suffering they are just sitting idle in class no class studies is going on. Child is just going to school and coming back. When I inquired from child what you learned today in school the reply is 'nothing'. Teacher is busy. So instead of making dummy arrangement we all should concentrate more on classroom exercise and take care of child properly in day to day to activity and automatically the result will be positive. There won't be any need for dummy arrangements.


11 October 2012 13:48jump to comments