Dubai: Greater competition and choice of Dubai schools has contributed to the biggest improvement in education quality since government inspections began in 2008, with 61 per cent of students now in schools rated ‘good’ or higher, officials said on Monday.
This represents an eight per cent jump — the highest year-on-year improvement — in pupils attending good or better schools since the last academic year (2014-1015).
Previously, such annual improvements were limited to only two to three per cent, on average.
The findings were announced by the Dubai School Inspection Bureau (DSIB) of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA).
In the latest inspections that covered 149 schools, 28 schools improved their overall rating, with only five declining. In total, 16 schools were rated outstanding, 13 very good, 57 good, 56 acceptable and seven were rated weak.
None of the inspected schools were found to be very weak.
Dr Abdullah Al Karam, chairman of the Board of Directors and director-general, KHDA, said: “More than 20,000 students are now studying in better quality schools compared to last year and this is a very significant improvement in Dubai’s private education landscape. School inspections have provided schools with a credible tool to monitor their progress and continue to improve educational outcomes while putting in place comprehensive action plans to support students.”
Another contributing factor in improvements, Al Karam added, was market competition, with more student seats now available in Dubai, where 90 per cent of students attend private schools. He said “year-long waiting lists” facing parents trying to admit children into the school of their choice was a thing of the past. Parents are “exercising their choice more” and “shifting children into schools on the right side of the equation”.
The KHDA notes that 26 new schools have started operating in the past three years, eight of which were inspected for the first time this academic year. Four of these schools were rated ‘good’ overall and four ‘acceptable’ overall.
In the current 2015-2016 academic year, 149 private schools in Dubai were inspected. These schools were responsible for educating 253,319 students, from Kindergarten to Grade 12. The figures represent an increase of 40 schools and 119,888 students since private schools were first inspected by the DSIB in the 2008-2009 school cycle — when only 30 per cent of students attended schools rated good or higher.
Even before a school is allowed to open, Al Karam pointed out, its application to do so is assessed against strict quality standards. On average, one in every four applications is rejected, he added.
Fatima Bel Rehif, executive director, DSIB, said: “This year, DSIB inspected schools using the UAE School Inspection Framework, which is based on comprehensive performance standards that define the essential aspects of a quality education. Some of the changes in this framework included the addition of a ‘very good’ level to the four existing quality indicators.”
Of the 28 schools which recorded an improvement in school ratings, three moved from good to outstanding, 12 from good to very good, 10 from acceptable to good and three schools from weak to acceptable.
The report noted Dubai private schools have been showing steady improvement in almost all performance standards and indicators, in spite of standards and expectations becoming more rigorous over the years.
This year, school inspection reports also include a special focus on the UAE National Agenda and the extent to which schools are prepared to meet their National Agenda targets. “This is the first time we have data on the readiness of schools in meeting National Agenda goals,” added Bel Rehif.
School inspection results also identified significant gains in the quality of leadership of Dubai private schools. The prevalence of good or better leadership has increased by 18 percentage points while weak leadership has decreased by 11 percentage points.
A new Education Cost Index (ECI) announced by Dubai Statistics Centre in February will allow private schools in Dubai to adjust their costs for the new academic year. The ECI has been set at 3.21 per cent, allowing schools to apply for a cost adjustment in line with the KHDA fee framework.
According to the KHDA framework, outstanding schools will be eligible for an adjustment of up to double the ECI, very good schools are eligible for up to 1.75 times the ECI, good schools are eligible for 1.5 times the ECI and the rest are allowed an increase equivalent to the ECI per cent (3.21).
The full school inspection report is available on www.khda.gov.ae