The Dubai government’s education authority has raised concerns about the leadership of private schools in the emirate, particularly highlighting 54 schools that are under-performing.
In its latest inspection report, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority said one-third of private schools had poor leadership, which included all management levels.
It was weakest in schools offering the UAE curriculum or other minority national curricula such as Pakistani. UK and French schools tended to perform better.
“One-third of leaders in schools are still [rated only] acceptable or unsatisfactory and this is a concern for KHDA because the role of the leader is very important to improve the school,” KHDA chief Jameela Al Muhaini said.
“[It] is something that we are looking at at KHDA very closely.”
Inspectors said there was a lack of expertise among some school leaders, as well as poor understanding of what constitutes effective teaching and learning and little experience in international best practice.
Many schools also lacked meaningful assessment data or the ability to use it to improve student outcomes.
Only about half the schools had effective governing bodies that allowed parents to hold leaders to account.
The KHDA has carried out annual inspections of Dubai’s private schools since 2008-09. The results are published publicly to help parents make informed choices about where they enrol their students.
The results, along with the annual Education Cost Index, also determine by how much schools can increase their fees.
The latest results, released on Monday, show only 51 percent of students attend a private school rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’.
There was a significant jump in the number of students in ‘unsatisfactory’ schools, from 10,988 in 2011-12 to 14,049 in 2012-13, although the number of schools – 13 – remained the same.
Twelve schools were rated ‘outstanding’, while 51 were considered to be good, and the remaining 67 were deemed ‘acceptable’.
Al Muhaini said while there was a positive trend of improvement since the first school inspections in 2008-09, there were still concerns, particularly in relation to leadership, addressing students’ special needs and the teaching of Arabic.
She said some schools had attempted to cover-up their failings during inspections, with pressure often coming from owners.
Inspectors were now using a variety of methods to determine reality, including interviewing children and parents.
“The school will be trying their best to cover things, to put in place [compliance],” she said.
“[But] it’s not about this week; if you put a toilet in the bathroom this week because we are there, there is the children to ask.
“There’s a lot of things that we are doing to make sure that it is not just this week, [that] the whole system has changed to improve the things regarding teaching and learning, health and safety, or regarding any aspect that we’re looking at.
“In the last year I’ve been frank with the schools, ‘don’t put on this show’. In certain nationalities, certain schools, this practice is still happening
“The school has to cooperate with our journey of improving or if they don’t improve it means that school will be dropping [in its rating].”