New mandatory assessment for Dubai school students

All students in the city aged 6-15 years old will be required to sit the test next year


Nandini Sircar

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Published: Tue 15 Nov 2022, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Wed 16 Nov 2022, 6:42 PM

A standardised reading literacy assessment that will be held three times per year has been officially mandated by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA).

This is as per the education regulator, who has stipulated that all students in the 6-15 age range are required to sit the test.

All schools in Dubai will participate in the digital Reading Literacy assessment for Grades 1 to 12, and the Arabic Benchmark Test, from Grades 1 to 9 with effect from the academic year 2023-24.

Peter Bonner, Assistant Principal Primary – Curriculum, Progress and Assessment, GEMS World Academy – Dubai says: “As per new KHDA guidelines, all students in the 6-15 age range are required to sit a standardised reading literacy assessment three times per year.

The guidelines state that tests must assess reading skills across a range of domains, with appropriate age-related emphases, including, but not limited to:

  • phonemic awareness
  • word recognition and phonics
  • reading comprehension
  • fluency
  • vocabulary
  • interpretive and comparative analysis of passages
  • application of understanding and critique of text
  • comprehension of different genres, including poetry."

Bonner adds, "Schools have the flexibility to select a reading assessment platform and provider that is appropriate for them and their context, as long as these meet the above requirements.”

Assessments, he said, must be "computer-adaptive, and results should show each student’s reading age in comparison to grade/age expectations, and also a Standard Age Score (SAS) to facilitate comparison of data.

They should allow a detailed analysis of results, which is then used to support identification of individual student needs and how these drive interventions with all students.”

Headteachers explain this is part of the UAE’s commitment to maintaining high standards of education, and institutions are piloting these assessments in a few grades and sections based on random selection.

This is expected to help schools establish a baseline of students’ cognitive potential and achievements over time, and to facilitate necessary modifications to their learning.

While some schools have started sharing the results of the test with students, some still don’t.

“Generally speaking, while [the] reading assessment results are not required to be shared with parents, this is generally done as a matter of effective practice so that transparency is maintained, and so that the students’ next steps are clearly defined for teachers, parents and students,” says Bonner.

Deepika Thapar Singh, CEO- Principal, Credence High School says, “The reading literary assessment should be external, standardised and reliable, and applicable for students across all curricula. These assessments should be aligned with the international definition of reading literacy, and [should] assess reading skills in line with those evaluated through international assessments, Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) and Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).”

She adds, “The assessment providers should provide the results showing each student’s reading age in comparison to grade/year level, at the time it is given. The assessments should also produce a SAS (Standard Age Score) for each student, to facilitate [the] comparison of data.

The results are shared with all stakeholders. The analyses should enable schools to align the results of the reading assessment to be compared with the verbal component of the cognitive ability test.”

Educators say the outcome of these tests will not reflect on students’ results.

Rashmi Nandkeolyar, Principal and Director, Delhi Private School (DPS) Dubai says, “Reading is followed by invigorating discussions using [the] Harkness Table Model of learning, and activities that promote deep critical thinking and a love for reading.

The assessment data provides an insight into students' reading habits and abilities. It is also instrumental in [their] stellar performance in IBTs. The program provides an opportunity for quality family time during home reading sessions.

She adds, “Teachers also give feedback to learners and their parents, right after the reading assessment is conducted.”

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