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Schools slam KHDA report

‘No improvement’ status irks schools; principals say they spent fortunes and did their best to improve education despite fee caps by KHDA

Image Credit: GN Archives
Future tensed: Students from an Indian school make their way to the school busPicture for illustrative purposes only

DUBAI The Indian schools that have been rated poorly in the latest school inspections have slammed the Dubai education regulator, Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), saying the government body is “far removed” from the ground realities faced by schools.

According to the 2012-13 inspection results released this week, Indian schools have not shown any considerable improvement in their overall performance. But school leaders said the government body is “unfair and unreasonable” in making such harsh judgements. “What magic do they expect me to weave with the Dh10 to Dh15 monthly tuition fee hikes they approved for my school last year?” asked an irked school principal. His school maintained the ‘Acceptable’ rating and was permitted a three per cent fee hike last year. As the annual tuition fee charged by the school is between Dh3,000 and 4,500, the monthly fee hike per child amounted to a paltry sum.

A total of 23 Indian and three Pakistani schools were inspected by the KHDA this year. Only two Indian schools, Modern High School and Indian High School, topped the chart as ‘Outstanding’ schools for the second consecutive year. Two schools that were previously judged ‘Unsatisfactory’ improved their ranking to ‘Acceptable.’ All other schools maintained their rankings without either moving up or sliding down the rating card.

“This means, despite undoubted efforts by school leaders to bring about improvements, there has been little overall success,” the Dubai Schools Inspections Bureau (DSIB), the Inspection arms of KHDA, said.

But Indian schools complained that KHDA has turned a blind eye to the progress they have painstakingly made despite the financial constraints imposed on them by the education regulator in terms of the tuition fee restrictions.

“We have invested nearly Dh200,000 in order to improve our facilities. We paid a fortune to hire consultants who worked with our teachers. After all this, what we get is the same ‘Acceptable’ rating. This is no less than a farce,” a school Principal told XPRESS on condition of anonymity.

According to another school that was also rated ‘Acceptable’, they have done “every possible thing in the book to please the KHDA inspectors” but in vain. “Our school underwent a complete face-lift. We pumped in thousands to improve the campus, revamped the teaching methodologies, appointed experienced supervisors, sent our teachers for professional training. But the fact remains the KHDA inspectors are hard to please,” the principal said.

But according to KHDA, school inspections that are in their fourth consecutive year tell a different story. Inspection reports that were out this week show there are now more students, almost double, in unsatisfactory Indian schools than in 2009-10.

According to KHDA, the leadership in half of the Indian schools is less than good, and quality of teaching is a far cry from being impressive. And worse, the inspectors noted that the schools evaluated themselves too highly.

Schools agree to disagree. “KHDA keeps changing the goalpost every year. I promise I can make the goal if at all the goalpost remains where it is,” said a Principal. “The key performance indicators change from one thing to the other. Last year it was Arabic education. This year, they focused on special needs education. If you look at the inspections, what are schools getting and at what cost? If you allow me to say, it is nothing less than mockery,” he said.

Schools have always been critical of the inspection framework that links fee hikes to school rankings. Their argument is that poorly performing schools should be allowed higher fee increases and not the other way round as is the policy endorsed by the KHDA. A comment from KHDA was not immediately available.


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Unfortunately, the KHDA is comparing Indian and Pakistani schools with theOFSTED/and/or other international standards and best practices. This isa common error committed by the public authorities in developingcountries such as the UAE. The core assumption underpinning the inspectionregime is that quality is only achieved if the practice mirrors with aninternational benchmark. This belief is flawed because practices aregrounded in values, culture, religion and socio-political context. Aschool might be highly successful in terms of its promise and outcomesfor a local community, but for the inspectors, mostly expatriates, suchpractices might be alien to their culture of belief, hence these aredocumented unsuccessful. I believe that best students in the UAEuniversities come from these schools. There is a need tostop using universal bandwagon for best practices. There are lessons tobe learnt from these schools. I understand that the function of the KHDA is 'to develop arepertoire of best practices of schools in the region'. All we arehearing in the press is that how bad these schools are.


31 January 2013 15:47jump to comments