Dubai's education regulator is on a five-year mission to measure the levels of happiness among private school pupils in Dubai.
"We need to prove that happiness leads you to success in life," said Dr Abdulla Al Karam, director general of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA).
The private school regulator began issuing its Dubai Student Wellbeing Census to schools across the emirate on November 5 to gauge how pupils from Grades 6 through 9 feel about themselves, their peers, teachers and parents.
The online survey is being distributed to 70,000 pupils across 166 private schools in Dubai, where the KHDA has jurisdiction. Although participation in the questionnaire is optional, officials from the KHDA said schools are highly encouraged to take part before it closes on December 7.
The census includes about 70 questions related to the pupil’s relationships and health. One section, for example, asks the pupil to answer from a five-point scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree with statements such as: “I get along well with most my teachers,” “most of my teachers treat me fairly”, and “I feel like I belong in this school”.
Another set of statements addressed the pupil’s relationships with his or her peers. For example, the respondent is asked to rank statements – from “disagree a lot” to “agree a lot” – such as “I feel that I usually fit in with other kids around me” and “I have a friend I can tell everything to”.
Four questions address how often the pupil has encountered different types of bullying, on a five-point scale from “not at all” to “many times a week”. There are also questions about the pupil’s health and activity levels during and after school.
To date, 10,000 pupils have completed the survey. Dr Al Karam said the KHDA will issue a report on the census results in February. Each school will also receive a report showing its specific data that can be used to make improvements.
Dr Al Karam said the results would not directly affect the school’s annual inspection rating.
"It's a separate tool," he said of the census. "But I think in the inspection there is a chapter about life of the kids and how they are taken care of in general. This is more detailed. In the years to come, you will see a direct correlation between the two."
Future editions of the annual census are to be likely issued to school staff and teachers, he said, to measure their levels of happiness and wellbeing.
“Happiness is a serious business for us, it’s a really serious business for us, and we take it to heart,” said Dr Al Karam.