Top Considerations in Choosing a School in the UAE

Top Considerations in Choosing a School in the UAE
By David Westley
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WhichSchoolAdvisor's annual school survey.

The top answer to the question - "What is the single most important consideration in choosing a school?" in the WSA School Survey is interesting in that it is not information that schools readily publish or that is necessarily easily obtainable - 'Qualifications of Teachers at the School'.

This should be a great bit if insight for schools which have an obvious way to market themselves better by detailing the nature of the assets they already have.

Parents we followed up with told that they had no real way of finding out this information save to ask the schools for it. Often they said the answers were too vague, and often also disappointing.

In Dubai, the KHDA does detail the percentage of teachers at a school with relevant teaching qualifications, but outside Dubai this information is not so easy to come by. Even in Dubai at KG level when parents express most interest in this information, they remain reliant on schools coming forward with it.

The second most popular choice is less of a surprise - 'Choice of Curricula'. Parents often make their initial short list of schools based on a school offering the IB, CBSE, or A' Levels for example.

The third most popular choice is 'Results in External Examinations'. Again, very few schools provide comprehensive details on this area. It is also something that is campaigning for. British and IB schools in general provide some information, but often inconsistently. Indian schools often merely provide a list of "toppers" (top performing individuals) which really is no guide at all to the overall academic performance of the school.

Schools do not like to publish results in general - partly because they do not like to be bench-marked  but also because examinations do not take into consideration their "value add". If a school is not selective on intake, then clearly the results it gains will not be as good as those of a selective based school. However, we believe that parents are aware of this, and should be given the same information they would be in more developed markets around the world.

Clearly a school which provides details of the qualifications and experience of their teachers, as well as its success in external examinations is going to give itself a significant boost in terms of popularity and perception amongst UAE parents. As something very doable, it is a very quick win for any UAE school - if they have something positive to say of course.

Interestingly, parents of children attending different curriculum schools rank criteria of selection differently.

Parents sending their children to British curriculum schools value 'school results in external qualifications' as the most important criteria (19%). Parents sending their children to Indian curriculum schools see 'choice of curricula' and 'teacher qualifications' as the most important criteria equally. IB based parents are strongly fixated by the IB curricula itself with 25% of respondents choosing the school based on the provision of the Baccalaureate programme.

Finally, the stage of education also plays a role here. At secondary level parents are fixated on 'results in external qualifications' (over 25% of respondents choose this), with the focus on a 'happy school', dominant at KG level, declining sharply. A focus on the 'qualifications of teachers' remains a constant across all age levels, explaining why it is the most important consideration overall.



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