Classwork in progress at Al Najah International School in Mussaffah, Abu Dhabi. Picture for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The standard of education in the emirate of Abu Dhabi has seen a steady growth over the last few years, given the increasing rigour of regular inspections, and efforts by authorities to promote innovation in teaching and learning. This year, more parents may finally get a chance to enrol children in institutions with affordable school fees, while students will have an opportunity to prove their mettle in an international test.

There is also a major focus on improving private school offerings in Abu Dhabi. A new model of private school with fees ranging between Dh20,000 and Dh30,000 is therefore expected to be launched, following an announcement by education regulator, the Abu Dhabi Department for Education and Knowledge (Adek). Studies have previously shown that UAE parents fork out nearly Dh1 million to educate their children up to university level, and the cost of education in Abu Dhabi emirate has long been a matter of concern. These new schools are therefore expected to provide a welcome reprieve for parents.

“Education is the cornerstone of the UAE’s national development process, and the private education system is a vital source of support for the government’s aspirations to provide high quality programmes,” Dr Ali Al Nuaimi, director at the Adek, explained.

In total, 10 new affordable private schools, offering a range of curriculums, are expected to open over the next three years; some of these could throw open their doors by the start of the 2019-2020 academic year.

As in previous years, the Abu Dhabi Science Festival will remain a highlight of the school year for children aged 5 to 15 years. It is expected to be held between January 31 and February 9, and this year will also incorporate Innovators 2019, a segment to showcase creative home-grown projects by about 200 residents aged 13 years and older.

“Through Innovators, we look forward to promoting the spirit of innovation among people of all ages,” said Salem Al Shamsi, acting knowledge management and education analytic director at the Adek.

The Adek has also announced of 10 new ‘community schools’ in 2019, with five launching in January and five others in September. Essentially, community schools are designated public schools that allow residents to access sport and entertainment facilities after school hours, and organise a range of activities.

“The community school activities and programmes help children develop a range of extracurricular skills and capabilities,” Dr Al Nuaimi said.

The Programme for International Student Assessments (PISA) will test public and private school students in math, science and reading. While the 15,000 UAE schoolchildren who took the test in 2016 fared well compared to their peers in the region, their scores were still lower than expected, placing them 47th internationally in math, 46th in science, and 48th in reading. Education authorities have since been working with schools, and the aim is to improve scores so that the UAE students ranks among the top 20 nations in terms of student scores. Students will undertake the assessment once more this year, and authorities are hopeful that they will performs significantly better.

Finally, there are hopes that more private schools will go on to achieve the highest standards in 2019, and be ranked as ‘Outstanding’ facilities. When the Adek inspections were first launched, no school met these standards. But three schools were ranked as Outstanding in the fourth inspection round, and four schools met these topmost standards in 2017-2018.

Five things to look forward to

Better test scores: UAE schoolchildren will once again sit for the Programme for International Student Assessments this year, and education authorities hope they will perform better than in the past in the areas of math, science and reading.

Affordable schooling: Efforts by the Abu Dhabi Department for Education and Knowledge, in conjunction with private school operators, are expected to result in the launch of schools that offer affordable tuition.

The Abu Dhabi Science Festival: Schoolchildren will be able to engage in 10 days of fun and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning during the Festival. There will also be a segment that showcases innovative projects designed by residents 13 years and older.

More community activities: More public schools will organise sport and cultural activities for residents in the community after school hours. There are currently 20 community schools in the emirate and 10 more will be added during the course of 2019.

Higher education standards: Schools have been faring increasingly better in Adek inspections, which means that standards of education in the emirate are on the rise. There is hope that the trend will continue in 2019.