UAE School Accreditation: What To Look For, and Why?
Nowadays, schools in the UAE go through a rigorous process with the Regulator in each Emirate (ADEC – the Abu Dhabi Education Council in Abu Dhabi, KHDA – the Knowledge and Human Development Authority in Dubai and Ajman, and the relevant Education Zone in the other Emirates), and in accordance with the UAE Ministry of Education, prior to receiving approval to open.
This ensures that the school owners, managers and staff are able to deliver the school itself, the curriculum and that the latter meets international requirements to enable access to university or college.
However, in the past there was not quite the same degree of oversight. Schools opened who stated that they were offering one or other international curriculum, but given the lack of independent examination of the proposal prior to opening and, until 7 years ago, inspections once the school was operational, how could parents truly judge if what was promised was actually being delivered?
Increasingly schools will have memberships or relationships that can provide you with more information and reassurance that what is being taught is “the genuine article”. These organisations generally act as independent verifiers of the quality and standard of the curriculum being offered.
It is now a requirement of the Regulators that schools in the UAE prove that they are genuinely offering the advertised curriculum through these associations via membership or an accreditation process. In some instances, joint inspections between the Regulators’ inspection teams and those from the accrediting agencies are already taking place or will be doing so in the near future.
You can check for yourself whether the school you are considering has, or is in the process of obtaining membership or accreditation.
US curriculum schools are required by the UAE Regulators to have (or be seeking) accreditation with one of the US College and School Associations. In Dubai, all US curriculum schools will be subject to joint inspections with NEASC (The New England Association of Schools and Colleges) from 2017-18 academic year. The aim of this requirement is to ensure that schools are offering a standard of education and leaving qualifications (High School Diploma) that will be accepted by Colleges in the US and elsewhere.
Schools that do not have accreditation will not be permitted to offer a US curriculum and may face significant licencing issues. US curriculum schools in the other Emirates are also increasingly being obliged to seek accreditation. In Dubai, joint inspections by the KHDA and NEASC will be the norm from 2017-18.
For UK curriculum schools, look for membership of COBIS (the Council of British International Schools which offers an accreditation process), BSO (Association of British Schools Overseas who carry out independent inspections by UK-based Inspection teams) or BSME (British Schools of the Middle East) which offers accredited training for teachers, as well as arranging inter-school activities and competitions. Each is recognised by the UK Government’s Department of Education. Many schools will be linked to all 3 organisations. Schools will also be members of the Examining Boards through which they offer UK public exams (GCSE and A Level). In Dubai, schools may now arrange for joint inspections with the KHDA and BSO.
International Baccalaureate schools are accredited by the International Baccalaureate Organisation, based in Geneva. A new IB curriculum school will need to apply for Candidate status prior to opening and its key staff will have undertaken IB training. Schools go through a 3 year inspection and training process after opening, prior to receiving their accreditation. Only accredited schools can participate in the IB MYP and DP exams. In Dubai, IB qualified inspectors make up members of the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau.
The Council for International Schools, which has approximately 430 members globally, offers training and professional workshops to enable schools to share best practice and to raise standards. Its accreditation process is recognised by the National Association of Independent Schools’ Commission on Accreditation (US) and regional accreditation agencies and organisations offering academic programmes. This includes providing the opportunity to synchronise the IB programme evaluation process within CIS whole-school evaluation and accreditation.
Indian curriculum schools in the UAE are mostly accredited by the CBSE – the Central Board of Secondary Education, with a smaller number members of the CICSE – The Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations. In both cases, schools that are affiliated offer the same curriculum and Board examinations. Without the registration with the two Boards, schools cannot have access to the curricula materials or examinations.
Schools offering other curricula in the UAE, including a range of national curricula (Japanese, German, French, Pakistani, Philippines among others) must prove that they are following a recognised curriculum from their home country. A few schools offer a hybrid curriculum – notably the SABIS schools – but are also affiliated to either the UK or US curriculum organisations.
Whichever curriculum you choose, it is wise to ensure that the school has the appropriate accreditation – or is on the way to obtaining it – to guarantee that they are delivering a curriculum that is recognised for studies at College or University level outside the UAE.
In this series:
MY CHILD DID NOT GET A SCHOOL PLACE. WHAT CAN I DO?
APPLICATION AND ASSESSMENT – WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
CHOOSING A SCHOOL – WHAT MAKES A SCHOOL THE RIGHT ONE FOR MY CHILD?
MOVING TO THE UAE WITH CHILDREN: RULES AND REGULATIONS YOU SHOULD KNOW
THE SCHOOL VISIT CHECKLIST – WHAT YOU NEED TO LOOK FOR…
THE CHOICE BETWEEN NEW AND ESTABLISHED SCHOOLS
UAE SCHOOL ACCREDITATION: WHAT TO LOOK FOR, AND WHY?
WHEN DO I START TO LOOK FOR A SCHOOL?
WHICH SCHOOL CURRICULUM SHOULD I CHOOSE?