NAT SPECIAL NEEDS-1580049436767
Students of determination at a school in Dubai. Picture for illustrative purpose only. Image Credit:

Dubai: From next academic year, Dubai private schools will not be able to charge additional fees for “students of determination”, except under some circumstances, as part of government instructions announced on Sunday.

It means, with exceptions to some individual cases, all students will pay the same fees.

Previously, many schools would refuse admission to students of determination, saying they did not have the required specialists, support or space. Other schools would ask for higher than regular fees when enrolling students of determination.

Both these practices must come to an end, according to Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA).

On Sunday, the ‘Directives and Guidelines for Inclusive Education’, issued by KHDA, provided the legal responsibilities of schools regarding students of determination (previously referred to more commonly as students who have special educational needs).

Individual agreements

“Private schools across Dubai are required to provide the standard school service for students of determination as part of the provision provided through the school’s standard tuition fee. In exceptional circumstances, an enhanced level of provision may be registered through an individualised service agreement including a stated individualised service fee,” the 40-pager says.

Even then, “the associated fees must be no more than the actual cost of the services provided”.

This agreement, between the student’s parent and school, must be registered with the KHDA and “can only be applied when the required provision is not available through the standard school service for students of determination”.

Evidence-based

Examples where the agreement would be applicable includes the need for therapists or specialist practitioners holding the “specific qualification and licensing requirement to deliver such programmes; implementing interventions that are evidence-based and internationally proven and developed to meet the specific needs of a particular student of determination”.

The school must also “provide parents and KHDA with clear documentation that the individualised service is required and is a necessary component of the student’s educational provision”.

Close review

The new document says the agreement will be “reviewed and monitored by KHDA and may lead to associated follow up or action…”

In implementing the new KHDA-enforced directives, schools must follow two earlier publications: the ‘Dubai Inclusive Education Policy Framework’ (2017) and ‘Implementing Inclusive Education: A Guide for Schools’ (2019).

Over time, KHDA said, these publications and related initiatives, including scrutinising the quality of inclusive education through school inspection process, has led to many more students of determination being enrolled within Dubai private schools. Education quality provided to them has also risen, KHDA added.

‘Filling gaps’

However, KHDA is clear that more needs to be done to achieve educational excellence for all.

Fatma Ebrahim Belrehif, CEO of KHDA’s Dubai School Inspection Bureau and the chairperson of Dubai inclusive education strategic taskforce, said: “Our conversations with parents and schools have made us aware of challenges faced by students of determination and these recommendations are aimed at filling gaps in current practices.”

Under the directives, schools must accept students of determination or notify KHDA when refusing admissions or re-enrollment on exceptional grounds. Targeted visits

Mohammad Darwish, CEO of Permits and Compliance at KHDA, said “these new requirements of schools will be monitored through targeted visits by KHDA. We will work in partnership with schools to ensure their compliance”.

Later this year, the rights of students of determination will be further promoted through the release of a dedicated guide for parents, explaining how they are able to ensure their right to access appropriate educations.

What do the guidelines say

  • Schools must accept students of determination
  • They cannot demand extra fees for such enrolments
  • However, in some individual cases, “an enhanced level of provision” may be required
  • To register this provision, an individualised agreement and associated fees will apply
  • Still, the individualised fees should not exceed the actual cost of the provision
  • Schools that turn away students of determination will be reviewed and may face action