Pakistani parents want better schools

Survey on school standards highlights issues with Dubai's schools.

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DUBAI // Parents of students attending Pakistani schools in the emirate say they are not satisfied with the quality of education their children are receiving.

A quarter of parents felt there was a communication gap between them and the school, with no proper feedback on their child's progress, according to a survey conducted by the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau (DSIB) during the evaluation process.

Liyaqat Ali, the father of a high school student who attends one of two Pakistani schools rated unsatisfactory by the DSIB, said: "The teachers still use traditional methods of teaching and there is so much added work I need to put in to ensure my children perform well in examinations."

Mr Ali said the school lacked basic facilities. "The computers are old and labs are not resourced either."

Imtiaz Mohammed, the father of two children who attend the second Pakistani school rated unsatisfactory, said he did not fully agree with the report from the DSIB. "There have been some management changes lately but overall I am satisfied with the teachers," said the parent, whose children are in kindergarten and Grade 1.

"That said, I think the school can improve in offering more extra-curricular activities to the students, though this may be difficult because the fees are quite low."

Mobisher Rabbani is the founder of The Rabbani Foundation, an advocacy group for the Pakistani community in the UAE.

Mr Rabbani said Pakistani schools will improve only if they adopt UAE education standards as soon as possible.

"These schools still operate with a traditional mindset and are not competitive," he said. "They need to raise their standards to encourage the highest achievement of every student."

Conversely, more than 93 per cent of parents with children in the emirate's Indian schools said they were satisfied with the quality of education their children receive in the emirate.

Of the 25,000 parents who responded to the questionnaires sent out during the school inspections between October and December 2010, 21,000 said their children are doing well.

And 95 per cent said they believed the inspection process has led to improvements at the schools. While 94 per cent agree the schools promote a healthy lifestyle, many considered progress in the Arabic language not up to expectations.

And while Indian parents largely gave positive feedback about their children's school, some said schools tend to put up an act during inspections.

"They do additional activities and more project work during the inspection week, which then tends to die down once completed," said a mother of a Grade 6 student attending an Indian school rated good.

"Apart from that, I am very happy with the constant feedback on my daughter's performance and safety measures at the school."

Quality paramount for parents

After a second round of school inspections, the bureau noted a trend: students are moving from low-performing schools to more successful ones.

According to the latest DSIB report, there are 11,200 more students enrolled in schools deemed “good” than there were last year, making a total of 35,533 students enrolled in schools with the second-highest possible rating.

The increase is attributed to three schools that moved up a rank, as well as spaces created at a new school that was also rated “good” this year.

On the other hand, schools rated “acceptable” and “unsatisfactory” have seen a drop in student numbers. There are 7,589 fewer students attending “acceptable” schools while 322 students have moved out of “unsatisfactory” schools.

“Parents are making more informed decisions now, which is why we see a mobility of students,” said Dr Abdulla al Karam, the director general of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority.

“In our survey, we asked the parents what the basis of their school choice is, and for most of them quality is paramount.”

* Afshan Ahmed