KHDA Inspection Reports: Deciphering Ratings

With the KHDA reports for Dubai schools being prepared for release, urges you to look beyond the overall rating. With significant changes to how schools are being rated, now more than ever a more nuanced view of reports is required.
KHDA Inspection Reports: Deciphering Ratings
By David Westley
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Parents of children attending school in Dubai will by now be familiar with the annual Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau (DSIB) Inspection process.  Introduced in 2008, the aim of the inspections has been to raise the standard of education within the Emirate’s schools using a common framework across all schools and curricula.  Schools are rated from on a scale of 6 results from Outstanding, Very Good, Good, Acceptable, Weak to Very Weak.  The KHDA’s target is for all schools to be rated a minimum of Good.

Last year, schools rated Outstanding or Very Good were exempted from the inspection process, provided that they participated in the Abundance Project which was aimed at enabling schools in need of support and improvement to be mentored by the top schools.  This year, it will be back to the annual inspection process for all schools and it will be interesting to see the outcome.

The inspection process is laid out in terms of the 6 key performance areas 

  • Students’ achievement,
  • Students’ personal and social development, and their innovation skills,
  • Teaching and assessment,
  • Curriculum,
  • The protection, care, guidance and support of students,
  • And, Leadership and management

Each criterion receives the same ratings, together with an overall rating of the School’s performance.

More: Complete List of Indian Schools with 2018 Ratings

However, each year the KHDA also issues a School Inspection supplement in which it outlines the key areas of focus.  For 2017/18, in support of Vision 2020 and the Golden Jubilee Year of the Union in 2021, there were some very clear clues as to the areas upon which the inspectors would be concentrating. 

  • The UAE National Agenda Parameter - (related to the achievement of Curriculum Standards and International Benchmarks).

This measure was implemented in 2015/16 as a way of measuring the progress that Dubai’s private schools are making towards achieving their individual TIMSS and PISA1 assessment targets as set out in the Parameter. The latest rounds of PISA tests are underway, and will be held again in 2021. The next TIMSS tests will be in 2019, the last before 2021. Schools are required to participate in international benchmarking tests and use the results to evaluate their progress towards meeting their National Agenda targets.

  • Emirati Students - the provision for, and achievements of, Emirati students.

The UAE Vision for 2021 states that at least 90% of Emirati students will complete their high school education, with an increasing proportion of students going on to study at university. During 2017-2018 there will be a specific focus on the aspirations and achievements of Emirati students in each school. This will take place regardless of the cohort’s size.

  • UAE Moral Education - provision and effectiveness of moral education, which was implemented as part of the mandatory core curriculum in all schools in 2016/17.

The UAE’s increasing ethnic and social diversity brings with it a wide variety of moral values. Within this pluralism, moral education is an important part of students’ personal and social development, and it is incumbent on schools to guide the development of morally mature citizens. Irrespective of curriculum or levels of achievement, the UAE moral education programme can unite schools by setting clear expectations for students’ behavioural and affective domains. The inspection of moral education will focus on the following key components of provision: curriculum, teaching and assessment and reporting to parents.

  • UAE Social Studies - planning, teaching, assessment and learning of UAE social studies – also implemented as part of the mandatory core curriculum in all schools in 2016/17.

In line with the UAE National Priorities and the Dubai Strategic Plan 2021, schools in Dubai are required to incorporate the Ministry of Education UAE social studies curriculum into their programmes of study.  In reviewing the UAE social studies provision, inspectors will focus on four key components: curriculum, teaching (methods and resources), learning and assessment methods.

  • Special education needs and disabilities - the provision for, and achievements of, students with special educational needs and disabilities.

The vision for Dubai to become a fully inclusive city by 2020 is part of a wider strategic plan including health and rehabilitation, employment, universal accessibility and social protection. As a step towards achieving this vision, school owners, operators, governors, senior leaders and other stakeholders should develop a shared understanding of, and commitment to, agreed values and standards of inclusive education. In order to comply with existing and forthcoming legislation, schools must appoint an “Inclusion Champion”, nominate a “Governor for inclusive education”, form an “Inclusive education action team”, appoint and designate staff as “Learning support assistants” and produce a “Strategic inclusive education improvement plan”.

  • Innovation - the development of innovation within schools’ curricula.

The UAE vision 2021 includes innovation as part of the National Agenda. The UAE National Innovation Strategy aims to promote innovation in the education sector by introducing creative teaching methods and techniques, as well as designing and developing innovative curricula that equip students with the 21st century skills and knowledge. Schools are required to promote innovation through meaningful learning opportunities with elements of enterprise, enquiry research, critical thinking and the use of learning technologies. Inspection teams will evaluate each school’s work in five key performance indicators; Learning skills, Social responsibility and enterprise, Teaching, Curriculum adaptation and Leadership.

  • Reading Literacy - The theme of PISA 2018 is Reading Literacy. PISA defines Reading Literacy as, “… understanding, using, and reflecting on written texts, in order to achieve one’s goals, to develop one’s knowledge and potential, and to participate in society.” The UAE Inspection Framework states, “Inspectors will pay close attention to students’ acquisition of higher order reading skills, including inference, interpretation and integration of information”. These key areas will receive particular attention in the inspection of science and mathematics, as well as Arabic and English (and the language of instruction).

It will be very interesting to see how schools have performed in these key areas and what impact the additional focus on them has had on the overall school ratings.  

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