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False impressions don’t affect inspections, KHDA says

Preparations to put on a show cause unnecessary stress for teachers and students

Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News Archives
Inspectors look for good, sustainable progress by pupils in key subjects. They look for teachingthat stimulates good learning and that helps pupils become inquisitive, independent, life-longlearners. School leadership is another key factor that is evaluated.
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Dubai: Dubai’s education authority is aware that many schools try to give a false impression to inspectors, but this has zero impact on the ratings obtained by these schools, a senior official told Gulf News.

“Inspection data from the past five years show that schools which set out to deceive our inspectors do not perform better than schools, which are open and honest,” said Jameela Al Muhairi, chief of Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau (DSIB) at the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA).

The extra preparations schools make have no bearing on our final judgement which is arrived at using a range of information which cannot be prepared in advance, she said.

“However, often these preparations cause unnecessary stress for teachers, students and administrators.”

“Unfortunately, of the schools which repeatedly ‘put on a show’ for inspectors, there are a number which have also failed to improve the quality of teaching and learning they offer their students,” she said.

Some parents, teachers and students notice the excessive preparations that some schools make for the inspections, and would prefer that we give schools little or no notice, before they are inspected, she said.

But it is understood that, as of now, KHDA has no plans to make such a change.

Many are unhappy with the way inspections are held now, mostly because of the changes they see in the school during the inspection period when they go into panic mode.

“KHDA inspectors may be capable of spotting preparations, nevertheless, to leave no room for foul play, surprise inspections should be introduced,” said a parent, who is also the head of an educational institution.

“This will force the schools to improve and maintain that quality all year round. It will also stop them from freaking out during the inspection period,” he added.

Reema, a mother of two high school students, agreed. “Every inspection season, schools panic about being put under the scanner and they put the students and teachers through hell. The stress is passed on to parents too due to last minute projects,” she said.

Teachers don’t teach for several days, while they are preparing for the inspections, added her daughter.

This is not the case in all schools, according to Marichu M Morilla, who has three children.

“In the Filipino curriculum school my children attended earlier, some kids would be asked to go to the canteen and be there so that inspectors do not notice the classes are overcrowded. But in the UK curriculum school that they go now, we don’t even notice that inspections are going on.”

She suggests having one surprise inspection and one announced inspection. “This way KHDA can compare the results,” she added.

To him, it does not matter if inspections are announced or surprise ones, said Raymund Caabay. “If the school is good, they have nothing to worry [about] and everything is smooth but it is very different if the school is not performing well,” he said.

Another parent, Ramesh C Vishwakarma, said that teachers and students are given lots of instructions on how to behave and how not to. “So they are often tensed and afraid to tell the truth to inspectors. KHDA should find a way to get them to open up.”

“If a school paints the walls and grows a garden in anticipation of inspections, regardless of why they did it its good for the students, so I’m happy,” said Tracy.

When KHDA went into schools for inspection in 2008, many people wondered whether inspections were necessary; five years on, parents consider inspection results to be one of the most important criteria in choosing a school, according to Al Muhairi.

“We believe that all schools in Dubai can be good schools, and together with principals, teachers, students and parents, we will keep working until every child in Dubai has access to a high quality education,” she said.