Since 2008 when the first Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) report was published until 2019, eleven years have witnessed a remarkable change in the education sector of the UAE. Coming from an independent reputable regulatory authority for education, the report measures school performance and gives out an unbiased picture that raises the standards of education and sheds light on a school’s strengths, weaknesses, and success stories while giving a wide-ranging point of view.
Fatma Belrehif, CEO of Dubai School Inspection Bureau (DSIB) says, “School inspections continue to play a vital role in meeting the aspirations of Dubai and ensuring progress in achieving our national goals. Today, more students than ever study in ‘good’ or better schools and this has only been made possible by the consistent effort of our schools to action inspection findings and further improve education provisions.” “Dubai now has a well-established school inspection culture that encourages families to seek better quality education and schools to continue making progress. This is evident from the improvements in inspection quality standards - with nine out of 10 schools improving in one or more quality indicators.” “Dubai is now home to 119 schools that offer a 'good' or better quality education - compared to only 38 in 2008. A total of 11 new schools that were inspected for the first time this year, seven have received a ‘good’ rating. We expect new schools to make progress in students’ attainment in Islamic education and Arabic over the coming years.”
What is a KHDA report?
KHDA annually 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.
What parameters are schools evaluated on 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 do the KHDA reports mean to schools?
Education experts from Dubai shed a light on how these inspection reports encourage schools and lay a roadmap for them to achieve excellence in the field that in turn improves the overall education quality in the UAE.
Act as for mirror and road map
Christopher Bromham, Principal of Uptown School says, “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 help us to look ahead and plan future improvements and developments. Usually, these match with already identified priorities but the perspective of a critical friend is highly valued.
Key document use as a cornerstone
Naveed Iqbal, Executive Principal of Creative Science Schools Dubai says“ It is a key document schools use as a cornerstone to drive all improvements underpinned by their own school’s vision and mission. At ISCS Al Sheba, the report represents an essential guide in our journey towards achieving the “outstanding” rating. Having already obtained “Good”, we will continuously use the report as a check point to ensure we are always on the right track to reach the highest ranking given. We are proud to say ISCS Al Sheba has been rated “Outstanding” in its first ever inspection in safeguarding, health, and safety proving that are moving in the right direction.”
A check on education reputation
Gabbitas Education Adviser Sophie Oakes says, “The KHDA inspection reports are an important part of the reputation of the education system in Dubai. They provide a preliminary benchmark for parents considering which school to choose for their child. However, they don't tell the whole picture. The inspection reports are based on specific criteria set by the KHDA and not all schools adhere to those particular set of values. Lots of parents definitely value a league table solution to picking a school but it is important to dig deeper and find out more about those schools"
How are the KHDA reports beneficial for the education system in Dubai?
Bringing all schools across the emirate on one platform, the KHDA reports not only unify the education system but also prompt all schools to work together to achieve a collective goal towards improving quality education in Dubai.
Drive up standard of education in Dubai
Christopher Bromham of Uptown School says, “There is no doubt that the DSIB inspection process has driven up standards in education in Dubai over the last ten years or so. Schools now have a clear definition of high calibre 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.”
Demonstrates a transparent approach of the Dubai education system
Naveed Iqbal of Creative Science Schools Dubai says, “A major component of Dubai’s KHDA report is to help bring parity across all schools in the UAE. It provides the comprehensive criteria expected of each school to further build and improve upon the quality of education at all levels. More importantly, it allows schools to collaborate with each other as a wider community, to learn from peers with the unified mission to continuously elevate the standards of education in the UAE. Having a report published annually demonstrates the transparent approach of Dubai and its drive to improve the education system every year bolstering continuous innovation and development within Dubai’s education sector.”
How are KHDA reports beneficial for parents and students?
Gives parents a yardstick to measure schools performance
Not every parent or student want the same thing from a school. Some look for schools that shine bright in sports and some look for schools that do extremely well in arts and languages. KHDA reports therefore make it easier for parents to choose a school that is most suitable for their specific needs. KHDA rates schools under different criteria making it convenient for parents to analyse the strongest points of any school.
Gabbitas Education Adviser Sophie Oakes says,” Students definitely take pride in going to an Outstanding school and the schools in turn like to shout about it. It can certainly be good for student morale if a school gains a higher KHDA rating.”
2019 KHDA reports in brief
In 2019, the Dubai School Inspection Bureau (DSIB) inspected a total of 176 private schools, of which 18 schools have improved their rating this year. Four schools have moved from ‘very good’ to ‘outstanding’, five from ‘good’ to ‘very good’, six from ‘acceptable’ to ‘good’ and three from ‘weak’ to ‘acceptable’.
Schools that have moved from Very Good to Outstanding are Jumeirah English Speaking School, Horizon English School, Dubai English Speaking School and Kings’ School Al Barsha
Schools that have moved from Good to Very Good are Raffles International School - Umm Suqeim South, Regent International School, Kings’ School Nad Al Sheba, Sunmarke School, and Ranches Primary School
Schools that have moved from Acceptable to Good are Al Ittihad Private School, Sharjah American International Private School, Bilva Indian School, Amled School, Dovecote Green Primary School, and Swiss International Scientific School.
Schools that have moved from Weak to Acceptable are Dubai Arabian American Private School Crescent English School and H.H. Shaikh Rashid Al Maktoum Pakistani School, Dubai.