Dubai Adopts an Innovative Approach to Improve Private Education Quality


A new World Bank report shows how in an education sector in which almost 90 percent of all students attend private schools that offer more than 15 different curricula, Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority has put in place an innovative governance approach that has led to better education quality through greater transparency, accountability and competition.

The Road Traveled: Dubai’s Journey towards Improving Private Education is an in-depth review of the system that was adopted five years ago to improve the quality of private school education. The report, completed by the World Bank in close collaboration with Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), shows that disseminating information has improved accountability and competition between schools and led to improved quality.

“The idea is simple. All schools are inspected and rated annually and then these ratings are made publically available,” explained Simon Thacker, World Bank Education Specialist and the report’s principal author. “It is the reaction of parents, schools, and the business community to these ratings that drives change.”

KHDA allows, in other words, all stakeholders to make better-informed decisions. The KHDA’s approach is uniquely adapted to the private education landscape in Dubai. In a sector that includes fifteen distinct curricula, the design of the inspection framework captures all aspects of the diversity of Dubai’s schools while at the same time focusing attention on the importance of improving education quality.

Today, 51 percent of students are in good and outstanding schools, compared to 30 percent five years ago. Steady improvement in overall student achievement is also seen in international assessments, as revealed in the results of TIMSS and PISA. KHDA has created higher expectations among educators, consumers and providers.

“We are working to improve the quality of private education in Dubai. In 2008, inspired by the World Bank’s Road Not Traveled report on education reform, we began to do just that,” said Dr. Abdulla Al Karam, Director General of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority.“We have worked with parents, students, teachers, school leaders, operators and our partners in the education community, and supported them in collaborating with each other. The way the quality of private schools improved in the last few years along with the student outcomes show that we are on the right path. In 2014, The Road Traveled offers us an opportunity to see how far we’ve come, and how far we have yet to travel.”

Good governance is an underlying condition for effective and efficient national policies, programmes, and services. Effective regulation requires improved interaction between the government and constituents, which in turn depends on transparency, accountability, and participation. Oversight of the private education sector in Dubai by the KHDA offers lessons for other countries in the region – and indeed internationally.