It is good teachers who make a great school for students

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It is good teachers who make a great school for students

Policy makers have regularly highlighted the need to build more schools over the next decade, giving school operators a reason to invest in the country’s education infrastructure.

By Muaz Shabandri/staff Reporter

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Published: Tue 28 Oct 2014, 11:47 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 9:50 PM

Twenty-one new private schools opened in Dubai over the last two years with each school adding to a growing inventory of seats and classrooms — increasing the demand for teachers and support staff.

Policy makers have regularly highlighted the need to build more schools over the next decade, giving school operators a reason to invest in the country’s education infrastructure.

At a recent education conference for international schools, Dr Abdulla Al Karam, Director General of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) noted a growing expat population drove the demand for new schools.

His mandate for private education was clear — giving parents more choice to select from a wide variety of schools. The education regulatory authority is hoping to see an ambitious increase of 50 per cent in student population by 2020.

School operators are towing the same line and lining up to get education permits to operate more schools. Speaking with Khaleej Times, Dino Varkey, Group Executive Director of GEMS Education explained that the ‘need’ for schools has increased.

“The demand for high quality education continues to increase year-on-year. Private school student enrolment has increased in the UAE and our schools have seen a significant increase of 9 to 11 per cent in terms of student numbers,” he said.

New schools in Dubai undergo strict approval procedures, including a complete review of academic plans, allowing the regulator to maintain a check on education quality.

“When new schools open, they start with primary grade levels and budget on having 15 to 30 per cent capacity utilisation in the first year. Some schools are very successful and highly in demand because of their community, location, curriculum and fee structure,” noted Dino.

However, Dr Catherine Hill, Dean of School of Education at American University of Dubai (AUD) explained the flip side of the growing number of private schools in the UAE.

“Teacher recruitment will be increasingly difficult because enrollments at teacher preparation programmes are starting to decline globally. A teacher is the single most important ingredient for a child’s success. If you have good teachers, you have the potential to be a good school,” said Dr Hill.

She noted the inability of some schools in Dubai to recruit teachers on time and how there had been examples of schools trying to rush teacher recruitment to meet opening deadlines. “Simply putting bodies inside a classroom is not the right approach and I’ve seen it in some schools. Hiring teachers with no qualification is a big risk. These people need education and one has to remember, a good teacher brings a lot more than knowledge and skills,” explained Dr Hill.

The University’s School of Education has launched a Professional Teaching Certificate designed to help teachers and teaching assistants gain practical expertise in the knowledge and skills of highly effective teachers.

“The primary challenge is to keep in mind that quality of teacher precedes quality of education. Schools have to look beyond where they are right now if they have to attract the best talent,” she added.

More schools and greater school choice for parents will result in a new era of increased competition in Dubai’s private schools. If the school operators continue to attract the best teaching talent, the mandate to make Dubai a regional education hub will be a success. -muaz@khaleejtimes.com



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