ABU DHABI // Educators have welcomed a level playing field for schools that comes with the country’s unified inspection standards, to begin this month.
“That there is a unified scale is a relief,” said Judith Finnemore, an education consultant for Focal Point Management.
“Parents will be able to compare more easily, provided there is openness and transparency by schools as to the grade they are given.”
The Ministry of Education recently released the UAE School Inspection Framework 2015-2016, a 130-page document outlining new, standardised metrics by which schools will be rated.
Bassam Abushakra, regional director for Esol Education, which operates four schools across the UAE, welcomed the move, but hoped there would be “an overlap in inspectors, so that some of the same people inspect schools in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi”.
This would “allow our schools to be on the same page when working together and learning from each other”.
Previously, private schools in Abu Dhabi were inspected about once every two years and rated on an eight-point scale that graded each school from “poor” to “outstanding”.
In Dubai, private schools were visited annually and judged to be either unsatisfactory, acceptable, good or outstanding.
With the new system, private schools will be rated very weak, weak, acceptable, good, very good or outstanding.
Six performance standards will be judged by inspectors: pupils’ achievement; personal and social development and innovation skills; teaching and assessment; curriculum; protection, care, guidance and support of pupils; and leadership and management.
“The new unified framework certainly provides schools in Abu Dhabi much clearer guidelines on how to reach a judgment,” said Sarah Thomas, education manager for private school operator Taaleem.
“Many descriptions of the criteria for ‘outstanding’ are quantifiable and clearly communicated. This will bring a more objective and standardised approach to the self-evaluation and inspection process, as they are less open to interpretation.”
The new framework calls for schools to place a greater emphasis on promoting a culture of innovation, entrepreneurship, inclusive education and national culture.
Private schools will also be required to teach lessons based on the Ministry of Education curriculum for social studies, according to the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau’s School Inspection Supplement, distributed to schools to explain the unified framework.
Michael Lambert, headmaster of Dubai College, hoped that Abu Dhabi’s two-year cycle of inspections would become the norm in Dubai.
“If we are to be unified in our inspections, I think that inspecting all schools every two years as in Abu Dhabi is an obvious change to make in order to truly unify inspection and create a level playing field,” Mr Lambert said.
It was not totally clear how often schools will be inspected but some educators suggested schools that perform well should be granted special dispensations.
“Consideration should be given to those schools that have already achieved or are seeking international accreditation,” said Clive Pierrepont, director of communications for Taaleem.
“A longer inspection cycle for schools rated good, very good or outstanding would allow the inspection teams to concentrate on those identified as needing the most help.”
The system also underscored the need for schools to work harder towards meeting the goals outlined in the National Agenda.
They included making the UAE one of the 20 highest-performing countries in the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa), and the top 15 countries for Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (Timss).
The agenda also aims for a 90 per cent high-school graduation rate for Emiratis and ensure that 90 per cent of Grade 9 pupils develop competency in the Arabic language.
Lyn Soppelsa, director of consultancy services for whichschooladvisor.com, a website that independently reviews UAE schools, said unified inspection would allow parents to make better informed decisions.
“What we do know is that parents and schools generally welcome the inspection process and parents use the reports to learn about their own children’s school’s strengths and areas for improvement, as well as for research into alternative schools,” Ms Soppelsa said.
“We believe that with the growth in school options for parents as new schools open and others expand, an objective, unified inspection process will support family decision-making.”