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How to Read KHDA Reports to Discover the Best School For You

How to Read KHDA Reports to Discover the Best School For You

by Lis ONealMay 13, 2017

The annual KHDA inspection reports are expected to be released in mid-May.  Almost all schools that have been operational for more than two years will have been through an inspection during the current academic year, and the release of the reports is the culmination of that process.

Our guide provides you with the key information about what the inspectors are looking for, what this means for schools in terms of their internal organisation, development and planning and how these requirements will directly impact you and your child.

The key findings of this guide are that the latest round of reports are more closely tied to how well a school is delivering academically – measured as far as possible against external and comparable benchmarks – than ever before. In addition, schools have been measured for the first time on the delivery of UAE Social Studies – a requirement for all students to the end of grade 8/year 9. The provision of appropriate support for students with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities has also been examined in more detail this year.

(Note: Schools that were rated Outstanding in 2015-16 and which have participated in the Abundance project, have not been inspected this year.  The Abundance project seeks to pair High Performing schools with those that are Acceptable or weaker, to share best practice and enable a culture of collaboration across schools in Dubai).

We hope this guide will enable you to look at the key information in the Inspection report for your child’s school (and for any other school that may be of interest to you) and see where the strengths and weaknesses lie.  You will then be able to determine whether the weaknesses, in particular, really matter to you and if the school is addressing them.

The reports generally run to between 20 and 30 pages and for many parents, the only detail that counts is the overall rating given to their child’s school.

We would like to encourage you to look beyond that.

The overall rating in no way tells the whole story and to be able to evaluate whether your child’s school is really providing the standard of education required currently – but as importantly – is developing its organisation and processes to improve, the devil, as they say, is in the detail.

To add to the complexity, inspectors effectively use two sets of guidelines – the Unified Inspection Framework (which applies to all schools throughout the UAE) and the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau Framework which seeks to focus further in depth on key areas.


The Unified Inspection Framework

In 2015/16, and after eight years of inspections in Dubai, the Ministry of Education published the first Unified Inspection Framework that would be used across all schools in the UAE.  The Framework which has remained the same for 2016/17, focused on 6 key areas in relation to private schools.

The National Agenda – In 2014, H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, launched the UAE National Agenda as an extension to the UAE Vision 2021. The UAE National Agenda covers the sectors of education, health, economy, police, housing, infrastructure and government services.

Education is a particularly important focus of the UAE National Agenda as it includes eight objectives (two of which relate solely to public schools and Emirati students) that should lead the UAE to being among the most successful countries in providing world-class education.

The National Agenda in relation to Education specifically set the following targets for achievement by 2021:

  • For the international PISA benchmarking tests, the UAE would be in the top 20 countries
  • For the international TIMSS benchmarking tests, the UAE would be in the top 15 countries
  • 95% of children should receive a pre-Primary (Foundation) education
  • 90% of grade 9/year 10 students would develop a high level of Arabic skills
  • 100% of teachers employed in schools would be deemed “high quality”.

In addition, the Unified Framework objectives include:

  • Innovation in Education
  • Inclusion
  • Self-evaluation

Performance standards and indicators which are broken down further into:

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

Based on all of the above criteria, inspectors arrive at an overall judgement of the school’s quality as the below table shows.

Outstanding Quality of performance substantially exceeds the expectation of the UAE
Very Good Quality of performance exceeds the expectation of the UAE
Good Quality of performance meets the expectation of the UAE (This is the expected level for every school in the UAE)
Acceptable Quality of performance meets the minimum level of quality required in the UAE (This is the minimum level for every school in the UAE)
Weak Quality of performance is below the expectation of the UAE
Very Weak Quality of performance is significantly below the expectation of the UAE

No school that is rated Weak in any area of measurement, can be rated Outstanding overall.

Schools will be rated Weak if the arrangements to protect and safeguard students are weak, irrespective of other areas of performance.

The ratings are not randomly arrived at based on subjective judgements by inspectors, but based on a very detailed analysis of data, discussions with staff and students and observation of lessons.

When describing a school’s performance across specific areas of measurement, a very precise definition is provided. Where the following terms are used, they are quantitatively defined as follows:

All: 100% or very close
Almost all: 90% and more
Most: 75% or more but less than 90%
Majority: more than 50% but less than 75%
Minority: more than 15% but less than 50%
Few: up to about 15%

For a school to be rated Outstanding, most criteria – which we now know means between 75-90% – must have achieved this level.

When reading the Inspection report, parents can very precisely determine what proportion of students or the criteria under discussion are performing to the standard and this is extremely detailed and valuable information.  

Next: The KHDA/DSIB Framework, Mandatory tests, Tables…

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Lis ONeal

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