DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - AUG 29:
Minister of Education Hussain Al Hammadi talks at a press conference.

(Photo by Reem Mohammed/The National)

Reporter: Roberta Pennington
Section: NA
Minister of Education Hussain Al Hammadi said the teacher training programme would comprise two tests. Reem Mohammed/The National

UAE private schools to face greater scrutiny amid nationwide shake-up of education standards



Private schools across the country will be subject to greater scrutiny by the Government to ensure they are teaching pupils to the highest standards, the Minister of Education said.

British and American curriculum schools will be among those assessed to ensure their pupils are finishing with English language, maths and science skills that make them ready for university, Hussain Al Hammadi said.

The minister set out what he said was the goal of ensuring better education standards. "We want to ensure that the core subjects taught at all private schools, such as American, British and Australian, are aligned with our standards," he said in an interview with The National.

Mr Al Hammadi said there was a concern about the number of pupils who were leaving school and having to sit a foundation year at university that focuses on improving their ­English and other abilities.

He revealed that 65 per cent of pupils attending universities take a foundation year, at significant cost to the Government and families and extending a degree to at least five years.

“When a pupil finishes high school, we want to make sure that he or she has all the capabilities that would allow them to directly go to university – without the need for additional courses,” Mr Al Hammadi said.

On Sunday, major changes were announced to government schools – primarily attended by Emiratis and a small number of Arabic-speaking expatriates. At present, government schools outside Abu Dhabi are run by the federal Ministry of Education on one curriculum, while Abu Dhabi government schools are run atheir own curriculum set out by the Abu Dhabi Education Council.

This will be replaced with a single Emirati School Model will be rolled out across the emirates when pupils return to class next week.

On Monday, further changes were set out, including that government school pupils would study more subjects in English, particularly science.

On Tuesday, Mr Al Hammadi sharpened set out the focus on ensuring private schools were up to scratch.

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Over the next two years, a joint commission from Adec, the Ministry of Education and Dubai’s private education regulator, the KHDA, will “work with private schools” to ensure that core subjects such as mathematics, English and science are aligned with the new national standards, Mr Al Hammadi said.

“We don’t want to have kids going through foundation years or dropping out from higher education,” he said.

“All our efforts are to maintain and give all the support to locals and expatriates living in the UAE to have successful years ahead.

“We are seeking a 100 per cent success rate [for pupils reaching university without sitting the foundation year].” He said a trial of the new model in a number of Dubai schools last year was successful.

Some of the country’s most costly schools follow the British and American curriculums but others have struggled to meet standards.

This year, Adec publicly named the poorest-performing schools and banned them from registering pupils until they improved.

The most significant change that parents and pupils in some public schools will notice next week is that maths and science will be taught in English. There will be no change to schools in Abu Dhabi, where these subjects are already taught in English.

This was one of the main differences between schools in Abu Dhabi and the Northern Emirates.

But Mr Al Hammadi said the focus was much greater than simply what language subjects are taught in.

“You can teach mathematics or science in any language, it’s the depth of the subject and what competencies pupils have gained once they graduate,” he said.

“Even if you are private schools, we want your [pupils’] skills and competencies to be up to university standards once they graduate. We have many UAE nationals studying in private schools, so this [Emirati School Model] guarantees a top quality outcome.”

As an example of the challenge some Arabic-speaking pupils face when they reach university, one mother, Umm Fares, phoned a radio station in tears, saying that she could no longer afford to pay for her daughter’s IELTS exams, a test of English language proficiency.

“I have six kids and my daughter was told that she has to pass the IELTS to be admitted to university,” she told Radio 1. Her daughter spent a year in foundation but failed the IELTS exam twice and was refused admission. Each time, Umm Fares had to pay about Dh1,000.

Dr Natasha Ridge, the executive director of the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research, an education-focused think tank, said closer inspections of ­private schools – of which there are more than 550 in the UAE – would be a logistical challenge.

Dr Ridge said the authorities would probably have to assess their exams, which are marked and regulated by companies in the UK, US and India.

“It will be quite a challenge and require a lot of manpower to visit and check all the private schools,” she said.

“Curriculum documentation has to be checked and, further to that, you have to verify that schools are delivering the curriculum in the best way by looking at exam results.”

She said British schools, whose pupils all sit GCSE and A-level exams, would be relatively straightforward but American schools follow several curriculums.

Dr Ridge also suggested that teachers in both sectors were also likely to come under scrutiny.

“The Ministry of Education’s curriculum is already in line with international norms but the gap is in what is implemented versus what is attained, due to things like teachers not having enough qualifications or adequate training.

“Often what is delivered is not in line with what is intended and so what pupils achieve is much less than what is hoped for,” she said.

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Edinburgh: November 4 (unchanged)

Bahrain: November 15 (from September 15); second daily service from January 1

Kuwait: November 15 (from September 16)

Mumbai: January 1 (from October 27)

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Day 1, Abu Dhabi Test: At a glance

Moment of the day Dimuth Karunaratne had batted with plenty of pluck, and no little skill, in getting to within seven runs of a first-day century. Then, while he ran what he thought was a comfortable single to mid-on, his batting partner Dinesh Chandimal opted to stay at home. The opener was run out by the length of the pitch.

Stat of the day - 1 One six was hit on Day 1. The boundary was only breached 18 times in total over the course of the 90 overs. When it did arrive, the lone six was a thing of beauty, as Niroshan Dickwella effortlessly clipped Mohammed Amir over the square-leg boundary.

The verdict Three wickets down at lunch, on a featherbed wicket having won the toss, and Sri Lanka’s fragile confidence must have been waning. Then Karunaratne and Chandimal's alliance of precisely 100 gave them a foothold in the match. Dickwella’s free-spirited strokeplay meant the Sri Lankans were handily placed at 227 for four at the close.

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Tips for newlyweds to better manage finances

All couples are unique and have to create a financial blueprint that is most suitable for their relationship, says Vijay Valecha, chief investment officer at Century Financial. He offers his top five tips for couples to better manage their finances.

Discuss your assets and debts: When married, it’s important to understand each other’s personal financial situation. It’s necessary to know upfront what each party brings to the table, as debts and assets affect spending habits and joint loan qualifications. Discussing all aspects of their finances as a couple prevents anyone from being blindsided later.

Decide on the financial/saving goals: Spouses should independently list their top goals and share their lists with one another to shape a joint plan. Writing down clear goals will help them determine how much to save each month, how much to put aside for short-term goals, and how they will reach their long-term financial goals.

Set a budget: A budget can keep the couple be mindful of their income and expenses. With a monthly budget, couples will know exactly how much they can spend in a category each month, how much they have to work with and what spending areas need to be evaluated.

Decide who manages what: When it comes to handling finances, it’s a good idea to decide who manages what. For example, one person might take on the day-to-day bills, while the other tackles long-term investments and retirement plans.

Money date nights: Talking about money should be a healthy, ongoing conversation and couples should not wait for something to go wrong. They should set time aside every month to talk about future financial decisions and see the progress they’ve made together towards accomplishing their goals.

Confirmed bouts (more to be added)

Cory Sandhagen v Umar Nurmagomedov
Nick Diaz v Vicente Luque
Michael Chiesa v Tony Ferguson
Deiveson Figueiredo v Marlon Vera
Mackenzie Dern v Loopy Godinez

Tickets for the August 3 Fight Night, held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, went on sale earlier this month, through www.etihadarena.ae and www.ticketmaster.ae.


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