Students attend a class at The Indian High School, which was rated “Outstanding” for the second consecutive year in KHDA’s inspection results of Indian and Pakistani Schools. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News Archive

Dubai: Recognising the importance of parent intervention in school education and the need for a two-way communication process between parents, school and students, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) has come forward with a new legally binding contract to assure a stronger and more secure relationship between the school and parent with regard to their ward.

Designed to promote positive relationships and protect the rights of both schools and families, the Parent-School Contract will include refund and admission policies, school fees, attendance and punctuality, as well as health and safety provision and transportation. It will also address parental responsibilities such as providing schools with accurate medical, psychological and educational assessment records.

The first phase of the Parent-School Contract, the signing of which will be mandatory for student registration, will be rolled out to six schools at the beginning of the 2013-14 academic year. Continuous evaluations determining the effectiveness of the contracts in reducing disputes between parents and schools will be undertaken during this time. Based on the outcome of the evaluations, the initiative will be expanded.

Dubai Modern Education School, Al Ittihad Private School — Al Mamzar, Al Ittihad Private School — Jumeirah, School of Modern Skills, Greenwood International School and American Academy in Al Mizhar will be the first to introduce the contracts, involving a total of 9,632 students.

Amal Bel Hasa, the KHDA chief of Compliance and Resolution Commission spoke to Education on the far-reaching impact of this contract.

Why did KHDA take the decision to have a formal parent-school contract? Is this in accordance with any international educational norms?

Throughout our weekly visit to schools, we found that schools and parents were reporting the same type of grievances. It was clear that the reason behind it was the lack of a binding agreement between both schools and parents. Schools which had clearly outlined agreements with parents experienced fewer grievances.

The Parent-School contract has been put in place to support closer communications between schools and parents, as well as greater understanding of their rights and responsibilities.

Many of the grievances we currently see between schools and parents could be easily avoided if parents were better informed of their rights and responsibilities at the point of registering their children in school. This includes clear policies on registration fees, bullying, curriculum delivery and expectations, and optional versus mandatory extra classes.

How legally binding will this contract be? What are the consequences of violating any clauses?

This contract is legally binding and can be used in a court of law.

How does KHDA think it will check negligence on part of parents and red tape on part of the schools using this contract?

The contract sets out a clear grievance resolution process if either party believes the other is not fulfilling the terms of the contract. If internal grievance resolution processes have not resolved the issue, either party can approach KHDA for mediation.

What kind of pressure would this contract place on a child? Would it make school and home guardians guilty of helicopter vigilance of the child robbing him of spontaneity?

The Parent-School Contract was developed with the best interests of the child in mind. The rights and responsibilities stipulated within it are designed to ensure that each child’s learning can progress with minimal administrative interference.

Can this policy have a downside? Is it likely to inflame the troubled relationship between parents and school authorities on sticky issues?

A number of schools in Dubai already have agreements with parents including terms similar to those found in the School -Parent Contract. Many schools also have harmonious, productive relationships with parents. The Parent-School Contract will allow clearer communication between schools and parents, giving each party clear information about its rights and responsibilities, strengthening the relationship between them and reducing the number of potential grievances.

Does a policy like this render a school as a corporate entity with a contractual obligation for its stakeholders?

The Parent-School Contract is binding for both schools and parents. Schools will have a contractual obligation to parents, and parents will have the same to schools.

The report states that there are some common concerns which are felt by all schools (which necessitated the contract policy). What are these concerns?

Some of these concerns, as mentioned above, include school registration fees, extra fees that are not part of the annual tuition, curriculum delivery, parental involvement and general administration issues.

How are conflicts going to be resolved under the new policy and what has been occurring in the past? How were conflicts resolved then?

The School-Parent Contract sets out a clear process of grievance resolution, involving teachers, principals and boards of governors at relevant stages. If these avenues have been exhausted and no resolution has been found, KHDA will mediate.

Schools and parents have traditionally resolved grievances according to their own policies and guidelines. Many also come to KHDA for resolution.

Do most parents attend Parent’s Day, school functions, etc?

Parental involvement in their child’s education differs from family to family and from school to school.

Were parents and schools consulted? Do you believe they are in favour of such a policy?

The Parent-School Contract was developed in direct consultation with schools and parents, and includes aspects already present in many existing school-parent agreements. The contract will benefit both schools and parents by making their rights and responsibilities clear at the time of registration.