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Very few Emiratis in outstanding private schools

Most Emirati families prefer schools with more traditional settings

Gulf News

Dubai: Only one per cent out of the 56 per cent of Emirati pupils attending private schools is enrolled in a school rated outstanding by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) due to what the authority said were cultural and social reasons, The finding is a major concern for the authority which said it will work with the managements of distinguished schools to promote the enrolment of Emirati students in their institutions.

According to the Dubai School Inspection Bureau’s (DSIB) 2012 annual report, a total of 18,546 students in the UAE are enrolled in outstanding schools out of which only 135 students are UAE nationals.

Having such a low number of UAE students attending outstanding private schools is a major concern as KHDA’s report “In Search of Good Education Volume 2” found that the majority of Emirati students, 56 per cent, study in private schools.

“One of the reasons for parents choosing not to send their children to schools rated outstanding is because most Emirati families tend to prefer schools which are characterised by a more traditional setting and attended by other Emiratis or Arabs. Outstanding schools in Dubai are more likely to be international and have large numbers of expatriate students which might not appeal to Emirati families,” said Fatima Al Merri, CEO of Dubai Schools Agency at KHDA.

Having such low numbers of UAE nationals attending outstanding schools has affected their performance in international assessment tests in comparison with expatriates, said Jameela Al Muhairi, Chief of Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau at KHDA.

“The Dubai TIMSS and PIRLS 2011 report shows Emirati students are behind expatriates in academic subjects. However, when enrolled in schools with good or outstanding provision, their attainment levels rise,” she said.

Jameela stated that the reason is because the curricula at acceptable and unsatisfactory schools where a large number of Emirati students are enrolled are less diverse than other curriculums and offer a limited range of subjects.

“The quality of teaching and learning in these schools is generally of poor quality and there are few opportunities for students to be creative and be independent learners. In addition, parental engagement tends to be better at good or outstanding schools,” she added.

In hopes of increasing the numbers of Emiratis attending outstanding schools KHDA has introduced an initiative that abolishes waiting lists for Emiratis wanting to attend outstanding schools.

“KHDA will be supporting parents keen to get their children into outstanding schools. The organisation’s director general Dr Abdullah Al Karam will be on hand to personally deal with enquiries and offer support to parents during the admissions and enrolment process,” said Fatima.

Noor Nazzal is a trainee at Gulf News