In total 42% of respondents to the WhichSchoolAdvisor.com School Fees and Financing survey believe education in the UAE is the same quality as that in their home country. A further 16% believe it is better than the quality of education in their home country. That leaves 44% of parents in the UAE who believe the quality of education in the country is not up to international standards.
As human being we have a tendency to critique rather than praise, so perhaps it is not a surprise we have more responses as to what is wrong with the UAE education sector, than what is right.
Respondents gave a wide variety of reasons as to why they think the quality of education in the UAE fails to live up to international standards.
For some it about their child's peers. "Back home I feel that my kids are not able to compete with other children," writes one respondent.
Others cite the overcrowding in classrooms: "There are 27 in my child's class. That is too many..."; "Classes are crowded and teachers don't give attention to each and everyone one, especially the needy ones..."; "There are too many children in the class. They do not have access to the same facilities as they do in their home country i.e. language lab, playing fields, indoor sports hall, hot lunches, art room, ICT room..."
It's a simple equation one parent summarises: "Higher number of pupils per teacher, the less individual attention each child receives.
Parents also cite not what is being taught, but how it is being taught.
"Schools concentrate only on academics and getting children into university, not on other talents the children may have," writes one respondent. "The education style makes children extremely dependent. Heavy school bags, less results," adds another. "There is nothing at all on personality development. Nothing at all on developing critical thinking."
Schools are also widely seen as "money making machines" by parents in the UAE.
"Schools are run as a business rather than as an education establishment..."; "Schools in UAE care less about developing child skills. Instead most are focused on making money..."
Particularly for Indian curriculum schools, parents complain over how too much responsibility for a child's education is off-loaded back to parents.
"My wife spends 4 hrs a day teaching my child after she is back from school to make understand what has been taught at school. Also the school pushes so much of the syllabus on to the parents without doing anything on it themselves..."
However, in the vast majority of cases parents cite teaching and teachers for the relatively poor performance of UAE schools:
"The average salary [teachers] receive in Indian Curriculum schools is below standards, and thus the desired interest in teaching is not visible. Teachers are stressed out too..."
"Turnover of teachers during the year is not allowing any bonding of children with teachers..."
"Bored and tired housewives are hired as teachers. Teaching is considered as hobby not a profession here in the UAE."
"Schools do not provide extra training for teachers so they can enhance their skills in teaching as well as handle children of different temperaments and nature.
However, parents do cite many positives in UAE schools.
Many responses believe the curriculum is more advanced than in their home country.
"I have been in the UAE a short time, and my children are studying at KG level. There is more technology involved, and the curriculum is better. It tries to teach students to think," one respondent told us.
"Schools ask more of the children. There is more structure from the teachers," added another. "The system encourages thinking, and analysis," agreed a third respondent.
Some parents simply believe the UAE is a step up simply because the base for comparison is low.
"The schooling is better because Pakistan has no education system," one parent told us.
"Smaller class sizes. Better philosophy (best of British without the rubbish... results are important but second to the whole child)."
Other parents believe their is more of a performance culture because of the nature of the country. "The ability range is less skewed to the bottom, due to the type of people Dubai attracts."
Others believe the private education system here simply means better resourcing.
"Children are actively encouraged to perform to their best ability. I don’t feel this is the case at home due to funding available."
The scores on the doors
With such a vested interest in schools and schooling it is unsurprising that UAE parents are critical of the country's education sector. They want it to be the best it can be.
In truth however, parents are largely favourable as a whole. A surprisingly high 12.3% say they are "very happy" with their child's school, with another 60% saying they are satisfied.
That leaves just over one in four who say they are unsatisfied.
Clearly, with such an important sector as education, no one parent should be feeling unsatisfied. However, given human nature, it is perhaps impossible to please all people all of the time.
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com researched international benchmarks to assess the results coming from the UAE. The UK offers the closest survey we could find.
Against UK benchmarks we believe the UAE is broadly comparable.
In a 2006 Ofted survey 33% of parents of secondary school children said they thought their child's schools was "Excellent", 44% said it was "Good", 19% said it was "Satisfactory" and 4% "Poor". Primary school results were similar, with a higher percentage finding the school "Excellent" (46%), and a slightly lower number Good (42%).
Clearly the question itself, and possible responses are not directly comparable, but there does seem broad alignment in the results - although UAE parents are slightly more critical than their UK counterparts.
This article - UAE School Fees and Performance: Who is satisfied? - helps explain why...
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UAE School Fees, Performance - Who is satisfied?
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