In order to keep a close eye on education standards, Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) has published individual inspection reports for private schools since 2008. It established a common platform for parents to compare and access the performance of one school to another, which was earlier only possible through word of mouth. Alternatively, the process has motivated schools to perform better every year. KHDA inspection reports marked its ten year anniversary this year and issued a comprehensive report on school growth over the past 10 years. We spoke with Fatma Belrehif, Executive Director of Dubai School Inspection Bureau at KHDA to understand more about KHDA reports and how new and existing parents can read the reports more efficiently.
What is a KHDA report?
Annually KHDA publishes the individual inspection reports for all private schools in Dubai. This is a public record of how each school is progressing towards the expectations of Dubai for its schools. It covers leadership, quality of teaching and learning, inclusion, curriculum design, how well schools assess students' progress and the academic outcomes when compared with national and international standards. It also judges students' safety, personal development and their cultural awareness. Schools' outcomes are judged on 6 quality levels, - Outstanding/Very Good/Good/Acceptable/Weak and Very Weak. Schools are expected to improve continuously and to reach an expected level of Good overall, at a minimum.
On what parameters are the schools evaluated to be outstanding, good, and so on?
Schools are inspected for their overall performance against set criteria. These include the quality of leadership, the progress all groups of students make in the key subjects, the quality of teaching for effective learning and how well the school knows itself - self-evaluation. The overall judgment is made across the six quality levels given the judgements in the above aspects in the 6 quality levels.
How should parents read these reports and what should they be looking out for?
When parents read a report they should focus on the first sections. There they will find a summary report by KHDA on how the school is progressing from its recommendations last year, how well students academic and personal development outcomes have improved and how the various stakeholders work together. Parents will also find attainment and progress reports for the key subjects. This is a record of how students perform against curriculum standards, depending on the school's licensed curriculum, the progress made by students in each phase of the school in these subjects, Kindergarten/Primary/Secondary/High School along with the quality of the teaching observed during the inspection.
They will also find commentary on the effectiveness of leadership and how governors hold leaders accountable for improvement. Later in the report parents will find the technical recommendations made by inspectors for the school to improve.
What the reports mean to schools
We spoke with representatives of some of Dubai’s top schools and asked them about their thoughts on the relevance that KHDA inspection reports hold and how these reports help parents in choosing a school and how schools strive to improve every year.
KHDA inspection reports look beyond academic performance
Brendon Fulton, Principal of Dubai British School said, “The KHDA inspection reports provide a measure of quality assurance for schools that looks past just student academic performance and gets to the very heart of a school's mission, vision and values. By doing so, the annual reports serve to affirm areas where schools are doing well and provide insight into areas where schools can and should be doing better by students.”
Reports help schools identify gaps and improve
Bede Higgins, Principal of Kings' School Dubai said, “A positive outcome in an inspection report is, of course, very rewarding, however as educators, we tend to be quite tough on ourselves, looking for improvements at all times. We are constantly evaluating all aspects of our school and our performance. We identify gaps and look at ways to develop and improve what we offer and the KHDA inspections are part of this continuous process.”
They act as both a mirror and a road map
Christopher Bromham, Principal, Uptown School- A Taaleem School said, “The KHDA inspection report, alongside the inspection itself, acts as both a mirror and a road map. The mirror reflects the progress and achievements that the school has made in the past twelve months. The whole process is predicated on our own self-evaluation and the inspection report helps us to standardise our evaluations against those made across the UAE. The road maps helps us to look ahead and plan future improvements and developments.”
What the reports mean to parents
Over time KHDA inspection reports have proven to be a better source of information which help parents make an informed decision based on different findings in the reports.
Alan Williamson, Director of Education at Kings' Education said, “The report offers an evidence-based belief that all of our children are in the right place to benefit from an excellent all round education, both from an academic perspective as well as their health and well being. Essentially, the report provides peace of mind that we have made the right choice of school for the important years that lie ahead.”
Best source of information
Rachel Higgins of GEMS Jumeirah Primary School (JPS) said, “ I believe the reports give parents the best source of information regarding school without bias of advertising and marketing. Parents selecting their children’s education are making informed choices having read what the school does well and what they are continuing to work on. This can all happen before touring multiple schools. For parents in my school it gives them the chance to become better informed about their children’s place of education. At JPS we are passionate about our parental voice and engagement of all parents. When informed, parents can ask specific questions and make great suggestions for the school’s continued improvements - this is an excellent use of the KHDA reports.
A better screening process for parents
Christopher Bromham of Uptown School said, “Prospective parents do place significant value on the DSIB report and will refer to it before visiting and ask about it during their visits. However, it is used more as a screen to disregard schools with lower ratings rather than the number one condition for making their final choice of school. Once a school is rated Good or above, then location, cost, personal recommendations and the feel of the school are far more important considerations.”
Their impact on the quality of education
In the past ten years, KHDA inspection reports have left a significant impact on the education industry. The aim to fulfil The National Agenda is leading the education industry on the right path where education in the UAE will be on a par with international education standards.
Significant improvement in standard of education
Simon O’Connor, Principal of Jumeriah College said, “You only have to look at the statistics of the last ten years to see the impact that inspections have had on the education landscape in the UAE. There is no doubt that the standard of education has improved significantly, and the role that inspections have had is crucial to this. Through the inspections, the government is able to highlight what is important and then hold schools to account for ensuring they meet the standards.”
Brendon Fulton of Dubai British School said, “Quality assurance in all industries is vital in ensuring that customers are receiving the quality and value for money that they deserve. As the value of, and trust in, the school reports increase, so will the pressure on schools to continue to ensure that they are providing the best possible service to their customers and the community, which ultimately means that children in Dubai are reaping the benefits of a rapidly improving education system.”
Ascertain each school’s contribution to The National Agenda
Alan Williamson of Kings' Education said, “KHDA is able to ascertain each school's contribution to The National Agenda. Schools are encouraged to contribute to UAE National attainment and achievement in English, Maths, Science and Arabic language. From this success, the ambition and expectation is that the UAE will progress upwards in terms of International Benchmarking Tests. Kings' is proud to play its part in this process.”
More clarity on definition of high calibre schooling
Christopher Bromham of Uptown School said, “Schools now have a clear definition of high caliber schooling and a critical friend to help them set next steps. Initiatives such as What Works have also helped schools to learn from each other and to form partnerships to raise student outcomes across the emirate.”