Inclusive education is about ensuring access to quality education for all students by effectively meeting their diverse needs in a way that is responsive, accepting, respectful and supportive. This is evident through student engagement and participation in an education programme within a common learning environment with the benefit of targeted support which enables the reduction and removal of barriers that may lead to exclusion.
The term 'special educational needs', as defined in the government.ae website section titled ‘Education for people of determination’, is used to describe the educational needs of anyone with a disability, disorder, difficulty, impairment, exceptionality or any other factor that may affect (but notably not necessarily impede) a student's access to learning and educational performance.
As schools across the world gear up for TIMSS 2019 is it not about time we ask whether the OECD and IEA assessments are even relevant anymore?
Firstly, do you even know who the OECD and the IEA are? The OECD is the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development founded to stimulate economic development and world trade. The IEA is the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement founded in 1958 as a response to discussions at a UNESCO conference on how researchers could generate data on the mathematics and science achievement of students and compare it to that of students in other countries.
For decades the United Arab Emirates has welcomed tens of thousands of teachers into its 641 schools, however, a triple threat now risks disrupting the supply chain. Cumbersome bureaucracy, initiative overload and crippling accountability have the potential to turn the UAE education system into the very monster from which overseas staff have been escaping.
A toxic mix of factors including mounting workloads, unrealistic targets and an inspection regime which gives primacy to an Outstanding rating rather than the creativity, character education and leadership skills which will enable young people to make a positive impact on the world, chase up to 15,000 teachers out of the UK and into the arms of British Schools Overseas every single year, including schools in the UAE.
The guru on effect sizes in educational outcomes, Professor John Hattie, argues that self-reported grades have by far the biggest influence on students’ academic outcomes and yet many others hotly contest that it is parental engagement in the educational development of their children which improves attainment more than any other single factor. Whoever is right, however, it is certainly true that parents matter more than (almost) everything else when it comes to student outcomes.
We already know that the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau takes its education model straight out of the OFSTED playbook in England and that the UAE Unified Inspection Framework is modelled and run in a very similar way to UK inspections. With the recent fee freeze putting a squeeze on school providers will we see even more parallels with the UK state sector going forward?
As students strive to attain as many high level qualifications as they can to differentiate themselves for future degrees as well as careers (which may or may not yet exist), the pressure to achieve highly in public examinations is increasing.
Couple this with premature efforts by some schools to anticipate the digital revolution by insisting that batteries of children are educated on digital devices and you begin to create an education system with an identity crisis. (The digital devices and platforms of today will be redundant before they even leave school - what a misguided attempt to prep them for the world of tomorrow!)
Throw in governments and regulators seeking to position their educational systems at the top of arbitrary globalised league tables and you begin to create a self-serving educational cocktail which is at best unfit for purpose and at worst bad for students’ health.