Pass mark for schools in Northern Emirates

Most schools in the Northern Emirates that took part in an inspection pilot scheme have passed, it was announced yesterday.

DUBAI // Most schools in the Northern Emirates that took part in an inspection pilot scheme have passed, it was announced yesterday. The Ministry of Education found that of 71 schools inspected, 91 per cent met minimum standards. Teams of inspectors from the ministry started visiting the schools in October. Sixty-nine public and two private schools participated in the pilot project. More than 400 schools have yet to be inspected.

Plans for an accreditation programme were announced by Dr Hanif Hassan, the former minister of education, in August 2008 to ensure that all schools meet a uniform set of standards in areas such as health and safety and student achievement - whether they are public schools catering to UAE nationals or private schools, such as those for Indian expatriates. Shaikha al Shamsi, the director of the ministry's school approval and accreditation department and the acting chief executive of educational affairs at the ministry, said she expected all schools in the Northern Emirates to have been evaluated by 2012.

The programme was carried out in partnership with the Centre for British Teachers Education Trust, a not-for-profit organisation based in the United Kingdom, and focused on two key areas: student attainment and personal development. Inspectors looked at the strength of school leadership, the school community, student learning, classroom environments, student motivation, engagement and attainment.

The programme marks the first federal effort to ensure that schools are meeting basic standards, and follows the introduction of school inspections in Dubai, which were done for the first time last year. "We've heard from some of the school principals, 'It's like you've given us a compass to guide our work, you are leading us to a clear path, we know now the expectations'," Ms al Shamsi said. "It was a challenge," said Khawla al Naqbi, the principal of Umm Roman Bint Amer, a public girls' school in Sharjah. "This is the first time someone has come and evaluated the school."

Mrs al Naqbi was grateful for the experience. "It was a good chance for us to self-evaluate," she said. She was pleased her school was not graded down because of its facilities. Like many other public schools, Umm Roman Bint Amer does not have a gymnasium, canteen, or enough computers. There are key differences between the Dubai inspections and the ministry's accreditation scheme, but Ms al Shamsi noted that the programmes shared basic goals. "Whether it's accreditation or inspection maybe the terminology is a little bit different but we are targeting the most important aspects of the school as a whole."

Dubai inspections are annual, while accreditation will be on a three-year cycle. In Dubai, schools have been given financial incentives. Schools ranked outstanding were allowed to raise fees higher than schools that did poorly.