Schools audit to gauge resources' effect on results

A new inspection system will evaluate Abu Dhabi's schools by measuring pupils' scores against the use of cash and other resources to assess their influence on performance.

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ABU DHABI // Schools will be evaluated for efficiency for the first time as the education watchdog rolls out an auditing system that links use of cash and other resources to pupil accomplishment.

State schools will be evaluated through a scientific process that will measure how they use the budget and resources allotted to educate students, the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) said yesterday. Factors such as the cost of facilities, teacher-student ratio and teacher workload will be connected to measurements that include grades, test scores and parental satisfaction.

The system will be extended to private schools next year.

"In the past, schools were considered the best based on the examination and test scores without taking into consideration various other factors that affect student learning," said Dr Masood Badri, the Adec director of research and performance management. "Some schools have the same resources but very different output so we need to see where the gaps are."

The audit will help to identify what additional resources are needed and analyse how available funds are being used. The containment analysis system was developed by Adec as part of a 10-year strategy to inspect the level of performance of each school and improve learning.

"Suppose we find a school to be 50 per cent efficient. We will provide them with a direction on how to gain 100 per cent efficiency," Dr Badri said. "We may tell them they need to reduce the average student cost by 40 per cent and increase test scores by two per cent."

The evaluations would ensure a continuous measurement of students' achievements and enhance education, said Dr Mugheer Khamis al Khaili, the organisation's director general.

"This reflects Adec's keenness to support schools and identify their needs to help improve their level of performance and enable them to compete with other schools and achieve excellence," he said.

The model, used to assess education systems in the UK, US, Finland and China, will be used in the Gulf region for the first time. Dr al Khaili said the new system would introduce international standards of assessment in schools.

"It will help us explore the points of strengths and weaknesses in our programmes, which will enable us to carry out the necessary remedial and improvement measures," he said.

Adec will not make the results for the first round of annual evaluations public, giving schools time to make changes. It will begin to release the ratings after two years. Dr Badri said the programme was the first step towards creating a more efficient culture and raising standards.

"Right now schools do not have complete power over certain aspects of operation," he said. "Adec is working towards an autonomous system and this would provide guidelines for school management to raise productive efficiency."

He said schools will also be scored on their investment in extra-curricular activities and support to teachers. "It is not fair to compare a school where there is one teacher to 20 students while another has one teacher to only five," Dr Badri said. "That, too, will be taken into consideration."

Principals will be trained to conduct a self-evaluation based on the model. Adec will conduct the evaluations towards the end of the school year. The authority also plans to use the review system as a component of the private school inspections next year.

The evaluations were necessary to assess the overall quality of public education, said Samar Farah, a research associate at the Dubai School of Government, who has examined several aspects of the education system.

"There is a lot of research on different assessment models," she said. "Some say that resources or a lack of resources does not determine the output of a school, but in fact the quality of the teacher and teaching does. Studies also say added resources and support can help schools improve."

Schools will be categorised based on grade levels, ensuring that a preschool is not judged by the standards of a high school or a rural institution by those of an urban one.

"Learning how to apply the guidelines is very easy and we will be conducting workshops for the management," said Dr Badri.