Emirati students must be given priority in school

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CORONAVIRUS IMPACT

School with high fees may not necessarily  offer a good quality of education

Private schools in the United Arab Emirates should be forced to enroll Emirati students before any other nationality pupils, the emirate’s education chief commented to a local newspaper.

Currently, more than 58 per cent of Emirati pupils in Dubai study at private schools. Many British schools, in particular and for example Repton Dubai, not only do not keep available places for Emirati students, but purposely postpone admissions. Some students had been even grossly mistreated in school during the academic year, as Dubai Chronicle reported back in 2011.

“One way is to give them (Emirati students) priority in good schools, if they fulfill the other admission criteria,” said Dr Abdulla Al Karam, director general of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority  in Dubai.

Emirati students should not be put on waiting lists at any schools, but given first preference, as they are in their own country and their skills will be eventually utilized to help the local economy’s growth.

School principals are expected to support moves to promote the capabilities of Emirati students, but many are either not aware of such initiatives or do not feel obliged to follow up. Again at Repton school, the lack of professionalism in that regard is shocking.

However, sending Emirati children to private schools, it doesn’t guarantee their success, because many of these schools are new, do not employ highly qualified staff and even do not have proper academic  policies.

Education is a big business in the UAE  and many are rushing to get a slice of it. Private equities and business groups view it as an investment opportunity with high returns, without taking into consideration the responsibility towards the young generation. For example, Repton school is owned by a private investment company, Evolvence capital, who’s founder Mr Khalid Al Muhairy is an ex-employee of Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. Although the school had obtained the permission to use the name of the UK-based Repton school, which is said to be a highly reputable academic facility, even in its fifth year of operations it faces high students withdrawal rate and very low university acceptance rate.

A parent of an Emirati student who attended Repton, said: “I can tell you out of experience that Repton school shun UAE nationals and in class teachers favor children from their own nationalities. Emirati children, as a matter of fact, had been separated all in one class and have not been offered any learning support whenever they need it.”

Most of the teachers in Dubai are foreigners and do not undergo any trainings how to teach and communicate with students from different cultures. Western teachers, and in particularly UK nationals, do not always show the right attitude. With training courses, tailored for foreign teachers ahead of every academic year, academic results will most likely improve. Another issue is the qualification of the teachers. Again, for example Repton school recruits staff by posting advertisements on Facebook and other local chat forums, which is a practice that doesn’t necessarily deliver good results.

Giving Emirati students priority is a wise move, that should be also taken with a caution. Trying to favor one group of students over another may be viewed as a form of discrimination. It can have an adverse effect where it results in a lack of effort by UAE nationals to succeed, which will lead to their underperformance in comparison to others.

KHDA research suggests Emirati parents choose private schools based on feedback from other parents, but   do not assume high quality of education is mandatory with the high fees or glossy advertisements. For example the highest school year at Repton school costs now AED85,000 (reduced from AED92,000), but only around 30% of the students were accepted into universities in 2011, according to the headmaster’s open email to parents.

“Often socio-economic factors determine the school a parent picks, but we know that a school with high fees may not necessarily be of good quality,” said Dr Al Karam.

Unfortunately, many schools in the UAE are viewed by their owners as money making machines, but not as truly educational facilities. As the country’s population expands rapidly and the need of education is pressing, business are rushing to get advantage on the situation.

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