When parents are looking for a school for their children, it is tempting to assume that the more expensive the institution, the better their child's education will be. This is not so, however, as the latest assessment of schools by Abu Dhabi's Department of Education and Knowledge makes clear. The four schools awarded the coveted "outstanding" rank are far from being the most expensive in the emirate. As the government rankings reveal, the standard of education is rising steadily across the board – the majority of the 104 private schools inspected have maintained or improved their performance since they were last assessed two years ago.
This welcome rise in the quality of education is testimony to the effectiveness of a rigorous inspection regime that highlights failings, recognises successes and, in a competitive education market such as that of the UAE, incentivises failing schools to do better. In Abu Dhabi, schools now have only five days' notice of an impending inspection – down from 10 previously. Last year, Adek named 23 poorly performing schools and banned them from enrolling new pupils until their standards were raised to an acceptable level. In Dubai, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority revealed in May that after a decade of inspections the number of pupils attending private schools in the emirate rated good or better had doubled.
Everyone benefits from such tough assessment regimes – the schools, which are inspired to bolster performance and reputation, the children, who gain a better education, and the nation. Inspections and rankings play a vital part in the ongoing drive to create a generation of young people capable of leading the country into the future. All in all, it's been a good year for parents in the UAE. In Dubai, the Executive Council ordered all schools to freeze their fees and, partly in response to transparency and competition, large numbers went further and actually cut their charges.
In Abu Dhabi, ADEK itself announced that it is to enter the education market, with a new range of schools offering more affordable private education and designed to reduce the financial burden on both nationals and expatriates. As parents we should not, of course, expect something for nothing – after all, school fees go towards the hiring of good teachers. However, even if private education remains one of the biggest expenses associated with life in the UAE, the latest inspections reveal it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. And, for those who choose their child’s school wisely, it is money well spent.