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All schools in Dubai will now be required to participate in international and external benchmarking assessments on an annual basis to reach national agenda goals.

Starting this year, school inspection results will also feature insights on progress made by individual schools in achieving national agenda goals.


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Currently, all schools are mandatorily required to write the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), conducted once in three years.

However, all schools will now be required to write international assessments like International Benchmark Test (IBT), GL Assessment, and International Schools' Assessment (ISA) along with PISA and TIMMS. "Schools will be judged on their ability to reach the National Agenda Goals based on test results from these other international assessment," said Dr Rabaa Al Sumaiti, Director of International Assessments at KHDA. However, some schools Khaleej Times spoke to stated that they already undergo these assessments and some internal assessments that are set by the school itself.

What is the UAE National Agenda?

Shaikh Mohammed launched a seven year UAE National Agenda leading to the UAE Vision 2021 which also coincides with the UAE's 50th National Day.

The UAE National Agenda developed by over 300 officials from 90 federal and local government entities, includes a set of national indicators in the sectors of education, healthcare, economy, police and security, housing, infrastructure and government services.These indicators are long-term, measure performance outcomes in each of the national priorities, and generally compare the UAE against global benchmarks. The Government leadership ensures that their targets are achieved by 2021 and they periodically monitors the national indicators.
The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) announced plans for the next phase of its lighthouse project on Tuesday, May 3.

Al Sumaiti explained the importance of national agenda and its impact on the quality of education.

She said: "We have seen some good examples of schools who have used international assessment data by sharing it with students and parents and this has helped in our journey towards achieving UAE National Agenda goals."

The inspections also include an emphasis on the UAE National Agenda Parametre which measures and monitors schools' progress towards achieving the targets.

The objectives underpinning the UAE National Agenda, launched in 2014 by His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, provide schools with concrete targets against which to measure the progress towards achieving the aspirations of the UAE Vision 2021.

"Schools are also given customised targets set by the KHDA which they have to achieve within a stipulated time frame," said Al Sumaiti. She added: "Schools now do not have to wait for three years to write the TIMMS and PISA and with the other benchmarking tests, they can figure out their performances on an annual basis."

Key grades that will be tested include Grades 4,8, and 9. Currently Dubai schools have a slightly higher average TIMMS and PISA score as compared to schools in other emirates across the UAE.

Rianne Selwyn, a middle school English teacher at JSS Private School said: "Outside of TIMMS and PISA, we also take the IBT tests.

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10 words for positive education

To assist schools in meeting their assigned targets, KHDA is encouraging collaboration between school principals. Last year the KHDA launched the lighthouse project, which inspires educators to learn from each other.

At the start of the project, principals worked together as part of the project to understand the success of countries that have improved their international assessment results.

On Tuesday, more than 100 school principals in Dubai came together at an event hosted by KHDA.

Dr Abdulla Al Karam, Chairman and Director-General of Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) said: "In a first for any city in the world, private schools following different curricula in Dubai are collaborating for good by embracing positive education values and supporting each other by sharing knowledge through the lighthouse project."

This year, as part of the initiative, schools will work towards discovering how 10 key character traits can help encourage schools to move towards positive education. The 10 key words are: Creativity, Curiosity, Courage, Integrity, Resilience, Empathy, Fairness/Tolerance, Awe, Gratitude, and Purpose.

Dr Karam said, "It is exciting to see so many principals come together with the purpose of collaborating and sharing knowledge. Every school feels a sense of shared responsibility towards meeting the national agenda goals."

Varghese Puthusherry, Principal of Amlet School in Dubai said: "The ultimate aim of schools is to bring out students who are happy. Students must not only be taught how to become academically excellent, but also be trained to be humans who are compassionate and kind."

The principals said that sharing of knowledge is an excellent way to achieve academic and overall success of a child, leading to a happier nation.
Page last updated 31 December 2019
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