Dubai, UAE: Seven years have passed since the first Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) inspections and Arabic taught in schools as well as special needs education remain a great concern.
The 2014-15 annual KHDA inspection report, which was released on Tuesday, showed how far the private education sector of Dubai has improved since the first inspection that took place during the 2008-09 academic year.
The report titled ‘Inspecting for school improvement: a collaborative journey’, revealed that the number of schools judged as good or outstanding overall in 2014-15 was 73 out of 143 schools (51 per cent). This is a significant increase from the first inspection in 2008-09 when only 38 schools out of the 109 inspected, or 35 per cent, were judged as good or outstanding.
Despite these significant improvements over the years, there are two main areas of concern that the KHDA urged schools and policymakers to work towards improving.
Arabic as a first language
Year after year, Arabic language taught in private schools has been highlighted as a major concern by the KHDA and this year (2014-15) is no different.
The report found that the progress students make in learning Arabic as a first language remains alarmingly low. This is mainly due to issues regarding the quality of teaching, assessment, and curriculum design and modification.
“Although there has been a significant improvement in school’s compliance with the Ministry of Education requirements — regarding the amount of time resources that should be allocated to Arabic as a first language — the quality of provision remains a great concern,” the report said.
This was largely attributed to the quality of teaching in Arabic as a first language, as the majority of schools were rated only acceptable in this area.
The weakest teaching was found to be in the higher grades.
The report said the quality of lesson planning needs development as most teachers use only a narrow range of teaching strategies and activities; these often fail to engage students or address their linguistic development needs.
This is mainly because only about a quarter of the teachers have a recognised qualification in teaching as the inspections found that 26 per cent of the teachers of Arabic as a first language do not have a university degree in the subject (Arabic language and/or literature).
Eight per cent of teachers have qualifications lower than university level.
The inspection results also found that more than 90 per cent of private schools rely on internal assessments to evaluate the attainment of students in Arabic as a first language.
In most of these schools, assessment data does not accurately reflect students’ attainment according to the Ministry of Education curriculum expectations. Consequently, most teachers, students and parents do not get an accurate indication of students’ proficiency in Arabic as a first language.
The curriculum for learning Arabic as a first language remains of acceptable quality in most private schools in Dubai. In most schools, the curriculum is still restricted to the content of textbooks, with insufficient focus on developing independent, deeper reading comprehension and extended writing skills, the report found
Special Education Needs (SEN)
When it comes to Special Education Needs, the 2014-15 report found that almost one in five SEN students is making unsatisfactory progress in private schools in Dubai.
This is mainly because currently only a minority of students have access to quality provision which is good and outstanding. As the majority of schools’ provision is less than good, it has negative effects on the progress made by students with SEN.
The weakest aspect of provision for students with SEN was the quality of curriculum modification and support.
Only 35 per cent of schools did this well, while 24 per cent provided unsatisfactory levels of modification and support, meaning that students were not able to understand what they were being taught in their lessons.
“Providing consistent, appropriate modification and support for students with SEN is a major challenge for schools in Dubai. Improving these two aspects are vital steps that need to be taken now,” the report read.
© Gulf News