Some, but not all, of the data we have pulled together is available in the public domain, bringing it into one place has taken considerable effort. That being said Dubai is by far the best served emirate in terms of information, thanks largely to the efforts of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), Dubai's education regulator.
The KHDA school inspection reports have provided a key piece of the data in this report; its assessment of attainment at each level of schooling – Foundation/KG, primary, secondary and post-16.
To make this data comparable, we have converted inspection ratings into numerical values. A '3' for an Outstanding rating, a '2' for Good and so on, and then converted totals into percentages against a possible maximum Outstanding rating across age groups or subjects.
We have used this as a proxy for the key bit of information that is still missing - actual examination data, although we have collected this as well where it is available.
We do urge schools to provide the results of external examinations. There is no formal requirement to provide this at present in the UAE, which means that many schools do not do so.
We believe all UK and IB schools should publish this data, and, where possible, value added information to support this further.
For some countries, results in school examinations are less important than others. School results for Indian curriculum schools are not as important as university entrance tests, for example. Conversely, for UK and IB based schools, for students looking to get into tertiary education in Europe, it is by far the most important factor.
Universities list their entrance requirements each year in a classic equation of supply and demand. The higher the ranked course, the greater the number of students applying, the greater the grade inflation to get into that school course. Law with European Studies at Aberdeen, a very good university, for example, will require ABB, or 34 points at IB, while Oxford, a global tier one university, will require at least AAA and between 38 and 40 points at IB. More here.
With university places dependent upon grades, parents have the right to know at what level schools they are investing in will deliver. It is a substantial part of what they pay for.
Some students are of course less academic, and it is not the desire for all parents to see their children advance to university. We also believe value-added is a metric that needs to be published so that parents are be able to see the level at which a school is able to draw out the real potential of a child. Some schools in Dubai are selective and take students on the basis of their academic ability. Clearly, any school that is selective on entrance is destined for better overall results. Unfortunately value added data is still embryonic, particularly in the region, and can be problematic statistically when dealing with a transient school population. Interestingly, we have only ever seen one school mentioning it publicly.
Non-selective schools would do well to find ways to find ways of showing or making comment on value-added data if they can, as this would certainly help to inform you.
The tables at the end of this report detail where a school is selective on intake, so to a degree you can see the schools that deliver good academic attainment without being academically selective on intake. There is of course a world of granularity missing.
A quantitative versus qualitative approach
Clearly this report takes a quantitative view on a "good school". It offers an insight and comment on the correlation between school fees and student attainment.
Some of the better schools will conduct their own internal analysis of the value they are adding to the student through base-line assessments and later comparisons and assessments particularly outcomes at the external examination stages. This value-added work and analysis can be quite specific but is an internal process and not often published. In fact, it is still in its infancy in the UAE and region generally with few schools conducting this type of analysis. It would be fair to assume that the KHDA classified ‘Outstanding’ schools have a good understanding of their value-added as, too, many of the ‘Good’ school.
Statistics offer immediate and obvious comparisons, the value-added can elaborate on this however, in both cases, they do not offer the whole picture of a school.
A quantitative approach clearly is important. We could not do a subjective analysis for you because, by its very nature, much of the feel of a school is in the eyes of the beholder. As a result this report does not, and in many way cannot report on and compare the often excellent work undertaken in the Dubai schools that create the characteristic ethos and learning environment of each school.
Areas such as: co and extracurricular programmes and activities that support learning plus personal and social development of the students; the quality of pastoral support, counselling and support for learning; the style of teaching and learning and the nature of any differentiation to support the learning further. The report does not make comment on the quality of general and specialist school accommodation and the resource supporting learning.
Our educational consultant, an experienced Principal/Headteacher, advises that these are all important aspects of a school that help to define the learning experience for students in a school. Importantly, these all contribute to building the confidence, self-esteem, skills and broader competencies that prepare and lead a learner into personal achievement and attainment.
Prospective parents and students are therefore encouraged to visit the shortlisted schools and their websites, particularly the Which School Advisor site. These qualitative factors are also important success indicators that should be considered alongside the more obvious quantitative ones as they help to inform the decision on which school would best suit the personality and learning style of your son or daughter.
British? English? National Curriculum?
There is some inconsistency in terms of what is meant by an English National Curriculum, British curriculum, UK curriculum school and this needs clarification in a report of this nature.
A range of approaches delivering the curriculum can be found in British style schools in the Dubai and the UAE. It is therefore important to define these approaches as follows.
An English National Curriculum school: This is a school that strongly references the National Curriculum of England (and Wales) in its core curriculum from Year 1 to Year 11. The school may also have an Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum section. In Years 10 and 11 the school will often focus on UK external examinations such as the GCSE or IGCSE and post-16 programmes will often lead to the GCE AS and A Levels. Some of these schools may also enhance their offering from Year 10 with more vocationally orientated UK courses.
The school will cover similar projects to those undertaken in the UK and may have a euro-centric approach to the content as is often seen in the National Curriculum. These schools recognise their international and local context and further enhance their curriculum to reflect this.
The I/GCSE and GCE AS and A Level external examinations all follow programmes of study as prescribed by the external examination boards.
Of note and reflecting practice in the UK, some of these schools will offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) in the post-sixteen years. See WSA comment on the IBDP and GCE A Levels here.
These schools adopt a child-centred approach to learning similar to that found in the UK. The top schools in Dubai will have high levels of staff professional development and staff will be familiar with best UK and international educational practice.
British curriculum schools sometimes also referred to as UK curriculum schools: These are schools that loosely reference the English National Curriculum in their core curriculum, if at all, in the early years, primary and early secondary (Years 7 to 9 in a Y1 to Y13 school or its equivalent Grades 6 to 8 in a G1 to G12 school).
These schools will offer IGCSE, sometimes the GCSE and GCE AS and A Level external examinations in the later years of secondary and post-16 school sections.
These schools may have a stronger focus on the academic programme with some creating a more pressured approach to study. They can also be more inclined to teacher delivery and examination outcome in a competitive sense and not always to learning. This can also be at the expense of a more holistic approach to the wider curriculum supporting learning and development. The top schools in this category will often have a culture of professional development, will be child-centred in their approach to learning and very similar to the English National Curriculum schools.
As this report is referencing the top schools, it also makes the assumption that the curriculum references the style of the English National Curriculum at most stages of schooling and not just in the external examination years. However, some of the schools have a strong nationality base that will, quite naturally, inform their curriculum design.
It is therefore important to establish the style of curriculum that you seek and to check that the school can match this when applying to a school. Do not assume just because a school follows I/GCSE or A Levels it will be a 'British' school.
The Best British Schools in Dubai Part 1: Start Here
Best British Schools in Dubai: What We Measure
Best British Schools in Dubai: The Data we have Used
Best British Schools in Dubai: The Demand for Places
Best British Schools in Dubai: Post 16 Education
Best British Schools in Dubai: Secondary Education
Best British Schools in Dubai: Best British Primary Schools
Best British Schools in Dubai: Best British KGs
Best British Schools in Dubai: The WSA Survey, What Current Parents Think
Best British Schools in Dubai: Nationality, Fees and Attainment
Best British Schools in Dubai: A Final Summary
Best British Schools in Dubai Table: Contact Emails and Overview