Behind the scenes of a KHDA inspection

DUBAI — It’s 7am and school inspectors from the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) have already arrived at the Al-Mizhar American Academy for Girls. The school, like every other school in Dubai, will undergo a rigorous evaluation, as inspectors take a closer look at what happens within the closed doors of a classroom.


Muaz Shabandri

Published: Tue 7 Dec 2010, 12:01 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 11:18 AM

Going to classes, interacting with students, teachers, parents and school administrators, school inspections are part of KHDA’s efforts in providing parents with credible information when deciding on their child’s education.

“It is a thorough evaluation of a school and we work really hard to ensure that we come out with a credible report card for the school,” says Jameela Al Muhairi, Chief of the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau.

Transparency in evaluating schools is key to the idea behind every school visit. Inspectors gauge individual classroom dynamics based on the quality of teaching, learning, attainment and progress of a child through participation in classroom lectures. More than 60 per cent of the time spent by an inspector in the school is marked for attending lectures.

“We attend classroom lectures for over eight hours in a day and it’s all a part of inspecting the evidence provided by the school,” said one of the inspectors who was attending a lecture.

While the inspectors are busy attending lectures, a lead inspector is tasked with interviewing the principal and school administrators. From questions on the mission statement to details about student interaction with teachers, the interview with the principal is a part of understanding how a school works with its students and parents.

The school inspections also involve interacting with parents as they get a chance to raise issues about their child’s schooling. A special questionnaire for parents provides the inspection team with valuable feedback as they screen it before visiting the school. “It’s about understanding what the parents think about the school and getting to know first-hand from their experience, what issues are there within a school. Parents relate better with how their kids are represented in the school,” says Jameela.

Basel Shaban was among a group of parents attending the school inspection at the Al Mizhar Academy. He says the interaction with school inspectors provides him a chance to voice his concerns.

“These meetings are essential as they provide parents with a direct chance to speak with KHDA and also raise some issues within the school. As parents, we know what our children think about the school and what can be changed to make the school better,” says Basel.

A select group of students from the school also interact with the lead inspector as they answer questions on what they like or dislike about the school.

“It is a transparent process and we ensure there is participation by all bodies linked with the school. Along with the inspectors we have a quality assurance team which check the facts provided by the inspection team,” adds Jameela.

Special care is taken to create the inspection team for a school as the inspection bureau takes into consideration the syllabus and school size before sending an inspection team.

“The inspection teams have a strong background in inspection, accreditation, authorisation and other areas needed to carry out the inspection. If we go into a school with Indian curriculum, we ensure the team has a specialist inspector who is knowledgeable in the CBSE curriculum or other federal accreditation process in that country,” adds Jameela.

“Every year we enhance our framework and add more criteria. There are over 13 different curriculums being taught in the schools. Unlike other countries that follow a single curriculum, our inspections need to adapt to the different curriculum taught in schools across Dubai.”

The annual school inspections by KHDA are a benchmark for evaluating the quality of education offered by the schools as more than 40 schools are inspected every week.

Highlighting the importance of the school inspection, Ziad Azzam, Chief Executive Officer of Taaleem says, “Parents and consumers of education can make better decisions because of the efforts of KHDA in coming out with a school inspection report every year.”

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