What can you expect from EduEval in 2016?

EduEval has evolved over the years since its inception in 2010. We have enjoyed working closely with governments, private school operators, NGOs and corporate partners to help support evidence-informed decision making in the education sector. We are excited that we have been able to grow in the MENA region. Our growth is a recognition that there is a need for high quality consulting for all stakeholders who want better education for a knowledge-based society.

As we have grown, we do need to make sure that we continue to meet the needs of the community that engages with us. So we have made a few changes and we are working on a few exciting internal projects to share with you.
So what can you expect from us in 2016? 
  1. We will be changing our name from EduEval Educational Consultancy to EduEval! This represents our organic growth as we have built several verticals where we will continue to promote the same level of excellence in evidence-informed decision making on a broader scale.
  2. We are working on a School Choice Guide for parents in Dubai. We have been approached by several parents and concerned stakeholders over the years. Parents who need help in understanding how to make the best decision for their child when it comes to choosing a private school in Dubai. This guide will be available soon – so keep your eyes on us.
  3. We will be publishing more on understanding the practical link between assessment for learning, the role of technology and promoting better teaching and learning. So follow us on twitter and you will notice more activity sharing relevant information about education.
  4. We will be directly engaging with communities to promote our new initiative: Industry Connect. This is a great series of programs that are being developed with corporate partners and schools to promote a greater link between the theoretical learning in schools and real-wold applications.
  5. We will continue our commitment to excellence by relying on assessment, monitoring, evaluation and research to make informed decisions that promote the best practices in education in the MENA region.
Thank you for all of your support over the years of our infancy. We appreciate all of our followers, our partners, our clients. We also appreciate the time from the students, parents, teachers, school leaders, and high level bureaucrats who have given us their trust and engaged with EduEval.
We have received many accolades and statements of gratitude from our stakeholders. Each of these positive reflections have meant a great deal to all of the professionals who have worked tirelessly to ensure a high quality service since we started this company.

From the EduEval family, we wish you a wonderful new year and lets make 2016 one where we can focus on cultivating motivated confident happy young independent 21st century learners.

Happy new year!

Sonia Ben Jaafar, PhD
Managing Director
EduEval Educational Consultancy

Student Success needs Parental Involvement even in Private American Schools in Dubai

This week, KDSL coordinated and presented an Education Parent Forum in Dubai focused on American curriculum schools. Parents of students in American curriculum schools had the chance to connect, ask their questions to a panel of experts, and learn about best practices. Parents had compiled insightful questions about how the US and IB curricula compare, how special needs were being addressed in American schools in Dubai, the readiness of Dubai graduates for US elite colleges and universities and finally, the introduction of the Common Core Curriculum in schools in Dubai.

The parent group had carefully constructed their questions to voice their concerns and asked about what else they could do for their children to help them succeed and be competitive with other students back in the US? Parents articulated concern about two key issues, university acceptance and the new curriculum in the US.


  1. Parents wondered about graduates from Dubai schools being admitted to good US colleges and universities.  Peter Davos explained that the American-curriculum students were not at an advantage to study in American universities for two major reasons. First, they have grown to have a false sense of entitlement, and second, they have a perception of global issues that is peppered with a privileged bias. The combination of these two attitudinal issues reflects a graduate who is simply not realistically ready for the competitive life of a top tier university in the US – and it shows in their applications!
  2. Parents were confused about the quality assurance of the American curriculum and what is considered “American?” The development and the introduction of the Common Core Standards were explained by the panel with an emphasis that schools in Dubai have no real measures that can stop them from calling their curriculum American. But for those schools who have adopted the Common Core, there is notable pressure on school teachers to reform their practice; and teachers are calling out for professional support from their school leadership. The panel was clear – the Common Core is new and teachers are struggling with making sure that they (i) understand and appreciate the goals of the Common Core and (ii) have the professional support to be able to implement it appropriately in their classrooms. So parents need to put pressure on school leadership to ensure the teachers have the professional development to do their jobs and not just put pressure on the teachers!

The panel was very clear about the responsibility of parents to work with the school to prepare their child for graduating and being ready for a good post-secondary school. Surprisingly, these parents seemed unmindful that they were already ahead of the norm in Dubai. The forum was held at a school at 10am. They already prioritized becoming more informed about their children’s educational opportunities over anything else that day.

Do these parents realize that they are already doing something for their children’s attainment just by showing real interest?

The effect of positive parental engagement promoting the importance of education for their children is critical on student attainment. In fact, there are studies that show that parental involvement has a bigger effect than schools in shaping student  achievement. It seemed that in the minds of these parents, they were just being parents. But in Dubai, where there is a marked lack of parental involvement  because of a popular belief that “the education of their children is the sole responsibility of schools,” these parents were being superstars!



School Choice in Dubai

In a recent conversation with a French mom in Dubai who has three kids of school age, she was explaining a dilemma that she was facing last year. Her eldest son and daughter were doing very well in the French system. They were in the top 15% of their class and enjoyed learning.

Student looks bored in class

She explained that they responded well to the discipline and the homework in the school. But, her youngest son, Frederique, was not responding well to the French approach and did not enjoy school last year. He struggled and his grades were consistently dropping. Despite the best efforts of the mom supporting her son through additional help at home, speaking with the teacher and trying different motivation tactics, Frederique just wanted to leave school!

Their neighbors were Americans and of course, Frederique played with the kids next door after school. Part of kids connecting is connecting about school work. So Frederique became exposed to the project-based work that this school promoted AND… he discovered that the teacher would help the students in school depending on how much they needed it. After seeing the homework and talking about the structure of learning in his new friend’s school, Frederique decided that he did not want to leave school, he wanted to change schools. And so, he informed his mom.

His mom and siblings thought he was really out to lunch! After all, he is French and that is his primary language. Furthermore, he will be going back to France eventually and would need to be able to keep up when he returns home. This request seemed very far fetched to the family who informed Frederique that he needed to make the French system work for him.

After a year of declining grades and decreasing motivation at school, his mom finally registered Frederique in the American school. It only took 2 weeks at his new school before her son rushed home with his first science experiment excited about doing his homework. His siblings rolled their eyes thinking that this kind of work was not their cup of tea at all! (her words). They believed that this approach was not “strong” enough and that they preferred their school. They were very articulate about their own gratitude that they would not be joining their brother at the American school.

It was obvious to the mom, the American approach was better suited to her youngest son, but not to her other two children. However, accommodating this difference did mean that there might be implications for the family so that Frederique could stay in the American system until graduation. In addition, she recognized that her youngest son would most likely be on a different path to post-secondary than her other two children and this was a concern.

But is this really an issue?

Perhaps if Frederique continued in a school where he kept getting lower and lower grades and becoming disengaged from school, the issues that the mom and family would be addressing would have  been far more serious.

The school choice offered in Dubai allows for this kind of diversity and brings differentiation to a new level. 

There is a lot of talk about 21st century learners needing to be tech-savvy and critical thinkers. There is a lot of attention being given to the notion of differentiation and the potential of personalizing learning on a large scale using technology. There seems to be less discussion and debate on the potential of school choice in the way this French family in Dubai responded to their reality and context.  It would seem that Frederique displayed critical thinking skills and creativity in thinking outside of the box to resolve his situation.

Dubai affords a different level of differentiation and choice because of the open-market education sector. There are issues with a market of education, especially for pro-public advocates who have a multitude of valid concerns. But one very distinct advantage that it can offer is the one that Frederique and his family found in this unique system.

It seems that Dubai is the perfect Petri dish to study the privatization of education on a micro-global scale!

Behind the Scenes of Competition in an Education Marketplace

The school choice debate often addresses contentious issues that bring a number of emotional arguments to the surface. Often, arguments that reflect core values of education for all and individual rights are juxtaposed. Advocates for school choice talk about the individual right to choose and market-based quality assurances. Advocates for public school talk about public good, national development and equity. The arguments are – of course – more complicated and controversial.

But, in these arguments, access to school is assumed  – even if the quality of the schooling is questionable. For example, most of the debate is now focused on “emerging public school alternatives” such as voucher programs and charter schools that shift resources and promote competition.

So what happens in a place where private school choice and competition is the default? If you want to learn about real school choice – then Dubai is the learning ground.

In Dubai, schools are private and diverse because school choice is the default for the majority expatriate population – there is no public school option. Sounds like a haven for school choice advocates promoting market accountability as the answer to public school problems. However, like any educational landscape, a fully private system also bears the reality of practical issues.

Over the last year, an interesting case has emerged in Dubai. Gems, the largest education provider announced its intention to close a 17-year-old school (17 years in Dubai is established!). Gems claimed it could not continue to operate at the same quality for the same fees. In fact, it claims it can’t possibly offer a minimum quality for under AED15,000 ($4,000). But the government regulations prohibited the desired fee hike of 50%.

Interestingly, the media did not report on parental concerns about a hike from AED10K to AED15K! The media reported on parents concerned about finding any schools with similar quality within the same “fee bracket.” In fact, according to the media, parents wanted to pay more in the face of school closure.

As Gems CEO once explained, Gems schools are like airline classes; economy, business and first class schools all take you to the same destination. But, at the end of last year, Gems CEO admitted that they had been running their “economy” schools at substandard levels. In his words:

For the last five years, we have been sustaining our old schools by compromising on quality.

Currently, there are fee-hike negotiations being made to keep this large school open. But more school closures are threatened and parents are at a loss because the choices are not there! The growth rate of Dubai is simply outpacing the growth rate of good schools.

This example puts a spotlight on the circumstances that pro-choice advocates do not consider as they insist on the benefits of competition to promote quality overall.

Dubai raises questions for organizations like the Alliance for School Choice who want to improve the national K-12 education system by promoting school choice in an educational market. Questions like

How to ensure the minimum standard is respected?

How to address corporate approaches to un-welcomed regulations?

How to regulate for consumer protection without compromising school operator rights?

The only certainty is that Dubai can offer a new depth of insights into the school choice debate!