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How to Read 2017-18 KHDA Reports to Discover the Best School For You

How to Read 2017-18 KHDA Reports to Discover the Best School For You

by Lis ONealMay 6, 2018

The annual KHDA inspection reports are expected to be released in early-May. The publication of 2017-18 inspection reports also represents a milestone in the history of the school improvement initiative and the aims to raise standards of Education in Dubai, as this marks the 10th Anniversary of the introduction of the DSIB inspection 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.

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.

Within the Dubai Schools Inspection Supplement, published by the KHDA each year in advance of the inspections, schools are provided with clear indications as to the key areas of focus for the inspectors.  No school should be able to say that they did not know what to expect.  In the 2017-18 document published on the KHDA website, those areas of focus are laid out plainly:

“…as we move towards achieving the UAE Vision to make the UAE among the best countries in the world by the Golden Jubilee Year of the Union in 2021, key focus areas (the national priorities) are also being emphasised. These include: 

  • the provision for, and achievements of, Emirati students;
  • provision and effectiveness of moral education;
  • planning, teaching, assessment and learning of UAE social studies;
  • the provision for, and achievements of, students with special educational needs and disabilities;
  • the development of innovation within schools’ curricula and reading literacy”.

In addition, 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.

Schools are also expected to undertake a detailed self-evaluation process in order to ensure that they recognise the areas in which they need to improve and are able to define how to achieve these improvements.  Many schools still find this a difficult process.

Schools that were rated Outstanding in 2015-16 and participated in the Abundance project were not inspected in the last academic year, but have also been subject to inspection this year.

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 25 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. This was very broadly based on the inspection framework that was implemented in Dubai in 2007/08.  The Framework which has remained the same for 2017/18, focused on 6 key areas in relation to private schools.  Schools are measured on Leadership and Management, Students’ Achievement, Students’ Personal and Social Development and their Innovation Skills, Teaching and Assessment, Curriculum, and the Protection, Care, Guidance and Support of Students.

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 an area of particularly important focus of the UAE National Agenda as it includes eight objectives 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

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


OutstandingQuality of performance substantially exceeds the expectation of the UAE
Very GoodQuality of performance exceeds the expectation of the UAE
GoodQuality of performance meets the expectation of the UAE (This is the expected level for every school in the UAE)
AcceptableQuality of performance meets the minimum level of quality required in the UAE (This is the minimum level for every school in the UAE)
WeakQuality of performance is below the expectation of the UAE
Very WeakQuality 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.

About The Author
Lis ONeal

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