Amanda Collins, Pearson’s Director of School Services in the Middle East, believes professional development for teachers is essential to raising standard of UAE schools.

August 30th, 2016
Dubai, United Arab Emirates:  A recent article in the UAE’s National newspaper reported that over 20,000 students in Abu Dhabi are currently enrolled in schools deemed as weak or very weak by school inspectors.
The figure was released by the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) following the first round of school inspections that have been conducted as part of the new UAE School Inspection Framework. So far in 2016, 41 schools across Abu Dhabi have been inspected, with 19 schools being categorised by the new reporting structure as either “weak” or “very weak”. The good news is

that two schools have fallen into the “outstanding” category and eight schools classed as either “good” or “very” good.

The UAE Ministry of Education launched the new School Inspection Framework in 2015 to unify the various school standard systems that had previously been in place across the seven Emirates. Under the Framework, schools are assessed against a number of criteria, including student achievement, personal and social development of students, teaching and assessment, curriculum, protection, care, guidance and support of students, and leadership and management. Schools are ranked into six categories: outstanding, very good, good, acceptable, weak and very weak.
A school’s performance against the Framework is linked to whether ADEC grants permission for that school to increase its fees. ADEC recently released figures showing that out of the 90 schools requesting a fee increase for the 2016-2017 academic year, 39 applications were rejected, suggesting a significant percentage of schools were not meeting basic Framework criteria.
The launch of the new system is no doubt a step in the right direction when it comes to understanding the quality of teaching and learning taking place in the UAE, with identification of issues the first step in building a strong, future-proof education system.
The real question is what do we do with this information? How can we use the valuable data collected from school inspections to shape positive reforms that will have a positive impact on both teachers and their students?
The report ADEC released following the first round of inspections noted that of the 19 schools falling into the “weak” or “very weak” category, 14 have failed to improve over the past three inspections. This is troublesome, as it suggests that despite the deficiencies being identified in schools, little progress is being made in redressing these issues.
The inspections in Abu Dhabi have shown that many of the greatest challenges facing our schools relate to the quantity and quality of available teaching staff. ADEC reported that September to December 2016 saw a turnover rate of teachers of 20% in Abu Dhabi schools. Absenteeism has been cited as a major issue, with the National newspaper also reporting a high number of teachers failing to turn up to class.  Anecdotal evidence suggests several reasons for high rates of absenteeism amongst teachers, including unsustainable workloads and a lack of knowledge about new reporting and compliance obligations. Recent media articles have suggested that as well as long work hours, high levels of stress are leading to “scores” of teachers in the UAE resigning.
Ongoing training and professional development for educators must therefore be at the heart of any solution to the main challenges being experienced within our schools. Those schools that rate highly on the new School Inspection Framework all enjoy strong and effective leadership – but the strong leadership exhibited in these high performing schools is no accident. Effective school leadership requires an ongoing commitment to professional learning and development on behalf of school principals and others within the school leadership team. Senior educators in our schools need to be constantly updated with the skills, knowledge and confidence necessary to deal with the complex challenges impacting modern school environments. Importantly, they must also be well equipped to guide the wider school community through changes to curriculum, assessment and reporting.
As already mentioned, absenteeism and high turnover of teachers can be, at least in part, explained by teachers feeling overwhelmed by new regulations and ill-equipped to deal with the multitude of other complex challenges facing today’s educators. Professional Development that specifically helps teachers and school leaders to implement reforms that will help improve their school’s performance during inspections is essential – with emphasis on improving learner outcomes all important. Schools need to be supported in their efforts to keep good staff. Increased pay for teachers as an incentive to stay is not always a sustainable option, but increased and improved Professional Development is. And while many school leaders are reluctant to invest in staff training for fear that if teachers leave it will be a waste of money, these leaders need to realise that it is often this investment in teachers that encourages them to stay, and give their best to a school.
Many weak schools are unaware of how to effectively use data to improve school performance and classroom instruction. Technology is often heralded as a panacea to fixing major education issues. But too often technology is unfortunately viewed by teachers as more of a hindrance than a help – largely due to technology being implemented without the training and support necessary to ensure it is used effectively. The result is teachers feeling burdened rather than empowered by technology – resenting its introduction and failing to exploit its potential as a way of making the teaching, assessment and reporting process more efficient and effective. We need to take steps to ensure data and technology are used optimally, benefitting school performance rather than hindering it. One of the easiest ways of achieving this is making the relevant training more effective and accessible.

So, in short, there are some important lessons that we can take from the findings of the first round of school inspections conducted under the new Framework. Giving educators and school leaders the tools, confidence and capabilities to address the issues being picked up will help us to build a robust school system. This is essential for ensuring each and every learner in the UAE is being given the best chance of meeting their potential in a schools that comply with the Ministry of Education’s new standards. 

Ministry of Education email service initiative to benefit 129,000 students.

Abdul Rahman Al Hammadi: ‘We aim to enhance communication channels between students and teachers and provide easy access to information’
UAE, June 11, 2015 – The Ministry of Education (MoE) has introduced an email service catering to 129,000 students throughout its schools. This unprecedented move allows students to utilize technology for a safer means of communication.

The dynamic interactive platform also enhances the students’ relationship with the academic faculty. Although the students are still currently in the process of registering to the service, on its first day the ministry has already activated more than 10,000 student emails.

                                        
Abdul Rahman Al Hammadi, Assistant Undersecretary of Support Services, said that the ministry remains steadfast in its commitment to help students efficiently integrate Information and Communication Technology (ICT) into their educational process in order to ensure easy access to information and strengthen communication between student and teachers.
Al Hammadi emphasized that the new email service is part of an electronic network the ministry has established to support the communication of key leaders, senior officials, workers and other affiliates in the educational sector. He also said this is part of a series of diverse smart services the ministry will be providing to parents, all of which feature high levels of data security made possible via advanced programs and applications.

The Undersecretary added that the email network abides by safety standards that ensure the security of all student accounts, each of which has a capacity of up to 50 GB. He also pointed out that the ministry accredited the accounts with access to all electronic systems of learners through a Single Sign On (SSO) system. At the same time, the ministry has provided Microsoft Office Pro Plus to all students free of charge. Al Hammadi explained that the efficient use of Office Pro Plus is the third most important skill acquired by students worldwide, according to an International Data Corporation (IDC) report.

New York Times best-selling author, renowned speaker and thought leader to empower the region’s youth to be leaders in the 21st century.

Global education practice leader Sean Covey’s first ever Middle East tour to focus on ‘The Leader in Me’ program: creating leaders, one child at a time

March 18, 2015
FranklinCovey Middle East, a global company that specializes in performance improvement of organizations, has announced the first ever visit of world renowned author and motivational speaker Sean Covey to the Middle East. During his pioneering tour, Sean will discuss how The leader In Me whole-school transformation model – developed in partnership with educators – empowers students with the skills they need to thrive in the 21st Century. The Leader In Me, builds on the work of Dr Stephen R Covey’s The 7Habits of Highly Effective People and redefines what school greatness means by focusing on culture, leadership and academics.
Sean Covey, who is also the Executive Vice President Global Solutions and Partnerships and Education Practice Leader of  FranklinCovey, will be visiting Riyadh on March 22nd & 23rd, 2015, Abu Dhabi on March 24th and Dubai on March 25th, 2015.
Today’s changing world has a whole new set of rules, to which our youth will need to adapt. Key skills businesses and educators identified as vital to the futures of today’s students are developed within The Leader in Me process. These skills include: Leadership, Accountability, Adaptability, Initiative and Self-Direction, Cross-Cultural skills, Responsibility, Problem Solving, Communication Skills, Creativity and Teamwork.
‘The Leader in Me’ is a school-wide process that develops staff and students as leaders and thereby transforms the culture and performance of the school. While raising pedagogical standards, The Leader in Me draws on the world-class content of FranklinCovey, including The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which staff, students and parents adopt as a common language. The Leader in Me schools seamlessly integrate leadership development into their daily curriculum, activities and systems; it becomes the school’s operating system. A school culture is created where every student is encouraged to set and achieve meaningful goals, to be a positive influence on others and to use his or her individual gifts to better the world. ‘The Leader in Me’ process strives ‘to build leaders, one child at a time.’
Sean said, “The Middle East represents a diverse geographic spread and a fantastic opportunity to build on the engagement of students, staff and parents. The education sector in the Middle East is highly viable thanks to a population heavily skewed towards youth. The Leader in Me is producing transformational results in over 2,000 schools worldwide and we are excited to bring the process to the Middle East.
Our vision is that one day our entire community will be impacted with citizens who are lifelong leaders and learners.”
In Riyadh, Sean is set to meet with officials from Saudi Arabia’s Educational sector and large corporate organizations. In the UAE he will meet the principals, teachers and parents from various schools under the Abu Dhabi Education Council in the country’s capital and with deans and senior executives of colleges and universities to be hosted at the American University in Dubai (AUD) to highlight the ‘7 Habits for College Students,’ which will empower them with the tools for achieving success in the future.
Sean graduated from Brigham Young University (BYU) with a degree in English and later earned his MBA from Harvard Business School and is known for writing motivational books for children and teens like Fourth Down and Life to Go: How to Turn Life’s Setbacks into Triumphs as his 1st motivational work published in 1990, The 6 Most Important Decisions You’ll Ever Make: A Guide for Teens, The 7 Habits of Happy Kids, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens’ which became a New York Times Best Seller.
Sean lives by the common saying, “You’re only young once, but you can be immature forever”, He acknowledges that we only get one chance to prepare our students for a future none of us can predict. But the question is what are we going to do with that one chance?
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About FranklinCovey:

FranklinCovey is a global company specializing in performance improvement helping organizations achieve results that require a change in human behavior. FranklinCovey’s education division is one of the world’s most prominent and trusted providers of education-leadership programs and transformational processes to thousands of primary, secondary, and post-secondary schools and institutions around the world. Our mission is to enable greatness in educators and students everywhere.

Strategic partnership between UAE Ministry of Education and Dubai Media Incorporated results in launch of E-Gate initiative.

New service aimed at giving private school officials a faster and more convenient way of ordering textbooks for students
[UAE, June 22, 2014] –The UAE Ministry of Education, in collaboration with Dubai Media Incorporated (DMI), has launched a new E-Gate initiative that has been designed to give private school officials a faster and more convenient way of ordering school textbooks for the coming academic year. The launch took place yesterday during a press conference held at the Ministry of Education headquarters. Present during the event were H.E. Marwan Al Sawalih, Undersecretary, Ministry of Education; H.E. Khawla Al Mualla, Assistant Undersecretary for Educational Policies, Ministry of Education; and Faisal Bin Haider, Executive Director, Printing and Distribution, DMI, along with a number of representatives from both DMI and the Ministry of Education.

The new E-Gate program offers a wide range of services, primarily allowing private schools to place purchase orders and receive invoices for Ministry of Education approved textbooks in a faster and more efficient manner. The system also features comprehensive information about the books—including prices and available quantities—which helps school officials in relaying much needed information to parents, students and teachers.

H.E. Marwan Al Sawalih, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Education, said: “The E-Gate Project is part of the Ministry of Education’s efforts to make use of modern technologies and smart tools in order to improve the quality of its services. This new service complements what H.E. Humaid Mohammed Al Qatami, Minister of Education has said regarding the expansion of quality services, which also aims to cover the private education sector as a strategic partner for public education.”
Al Sawalih also pointed out that the E-Gate program is based on a suite of smart applications that have been developed to identify what books are needed by each school, facilitating the ordering process and delivering them directly in the shortest time possible.
Faisal Bin Haider, Executive Director, Printing and Distribution, DMI, said: “The E-Gate program is a leap forward in the development of logistics solutions in book ordering for private schools. This also represents the beginning of the development of this sector–resulting in more productivity and efficiency as compared to how books were traditionally ordered before. The main objective of this new initiative is to best serve the teaching and education segment of the UAE.”
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UAE Ministry of Education launches Integrated National Learning Standards project.

Program aims to prepare and provide students with skills needed for the 21st century
 [UAE, April 19, 2014] The UAE Ministry of Education (MoE) announce today the launch of “Creating the General Framework of the Integrated National Learning Standards”, an unprecedented project under the theme “National curriculum towards a high class education” that aims to equip young Emiratis with world-class skills and knowledge that are in line with the UAE’s educational objectives and requirements geared towards attaining sustainable development and future growth. The program, which is one of MoE’s key initiatives, will determine clear scientific indicators to monitor the progress of public high school students in various stages. It will define the set of skills and capabilities that they must acquire for each level before graduation.

The framework will include general standards and learning outcomes, subject matters that should be integrated into all curricula and a comprehensive list of competencies that will make all public high school students competitive in the 21st century. It will also cover performance indicators, teaching and assessment strategies, professional development and training courses, study plans and recommended manuals, and evaluations, teaching and learning methods and resources.
H.E. Humaid Mohammed Obaid Al Qatami, Minister of Education, said: “MoE is on the verge of a very important stage in preparing Emirati students to become competitive in the international arena. We have implemented measures to improve the quality of scientific knowledge, abilities, and talents of our students, with special focus on
innovation and creativity. Our final goal is to train future UAE leaders and scientists in various fields and disciplines.”
He explained that world-class curricula, state-of-the art technology and equipment, and paradigm shift in education – all of which will be incorporated into the final Integrated National Learning Standards – are essential in achieving this goal. 
Al Qatami stressed that the program will ensure that students – from kindergarten to high school – will gain scientific expertise and necessary skills and abilities early on to prepare them in their college education and future careers.
H.E. Khawla Ibrahim Al Mualla, Assistant Undersecretary for Educational Policies, Ministry of Education, has already started working on action plans and reviewing the suitability of education outputs and requirements of some universities, colleges and related organizations to determine the qualifications of high school graduates needed to prepare them in practical life.
She stated that MoE is encouraging active participation of school management and officials, faculty members, business owners, government institutions, parents, community members, and stakeholders in developing the project plan. The ministry has also started implementing a series of special workshops in order to reach the final framework of the Integrated Learning Standards. The first workshop was conducted in early January of this year to develop the standards for the first group of the target students. The second workshop for the second group was held in March.

The final phase of the project work plan will witness a framework of National Learning Standards (for Curriculum and Assessment) for each subject, grade level and classroom.  This includes subjects that should be merged in all curricula as well as lists of skills for 21st century high school students. It will also identify the characteristics and attributes of an ideal public high school graduate, degrees of perception ability, performance indicators, and criteria of estimating this performance.