Dubai schools go under the microscope to drive reform

Published October 21st, 2009 - 10:09 GMT

Education reform in Dubai has broken new ground in the United Arab Emirates and the region with a strategy built on incentives and public accountability. School inspections, a first in an Arab country, are entering their second year and international assessments are providing the first clear picture of how Dubai’s schools are performing.
Dr. Abdulla Al Karam, Director General of Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), was yesterday taking part in a panel discussion at the 4th Cambridge Assessment Conference at Robinson College, Cambridge, along with Fatma Al Marri, CEO of Dubai Schools Agency.
They, with Jameela Al Muhairi, Chief of the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau, have also co-authored a paper (see attached) outlining Dubai’s experience with education reform. By publishing the results of inspections and linking fee hikes to school performance, Dubai has begun building a reform roadmap based on transparency.
Dr. Al Karam said: “We value the evidence-based results of our school inspections and assessments. This evidence helps us to know where we stand, and the journey we need to make to improve the quality of education for the children of Dubai.”
The paper, The Role of International Assessments and School Inspections in the Reform of Education in Dubai, illustrated some of the unique challenges facing regulators, including a high proportion of students in private schools (85%) and the 13 curricula on offer for Dubai’s mainly expatriate student population.
KHDA has used international assessments to gain an objective understanding of Dubai’s education environment. A TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) assessment was carried out in 2007 and the results were made public, in line with KHDA’s commitment to transparency. KHDA also participated recently in PISA 2009 (Programme for International Student Assessment), and for the first time will participate in PIRLS 2011 (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study).

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