School Governance and Happiness in Dubai

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What Works had yet another successful collaborative sharing event for schools in Dubai this week: What Works Happiness!

On first glance, one might be surprised that there was a
particular focus on the critical role of good governance
and school leadership with a title of What Works Happiness. But when we consider the influence of good governance on school culture and success, it is highly appropriate that we engaged in this discussion at this event.

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It was an interesting dialogue where the influence of the national agenda repeatedly surfaced as all schools in Dubai feel the pressure to meet the targets. During the open forum, stakeholders were candid about the diversity of the Dubai private education landscape and the expectations of good governance imposing on some traditional practices. After respectful dialogue, disagreement and sincere inquiry, what was clear at the end of the day is that change is not on the horizon, change is here – and it is in the interest of all of us to support any and all practices that promote school success for all.

Given this strong message of prioritizing the national agenda that unifies all schools to focus on shared goals, good governance and key school success factors were explored. The participants considered how the collective participation of all key stakeholders in school management could be made a reality in different kinds of schools in Dubai. Specifically, collective accountability repeatedly surfaced in discussions as a means to enhance efficiency, effectiveness and overall performance of schools.

The Education Bureau of the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Division offers some basic principles for good governance in school boards. Specifically, they call for:

  1. Collective participation and accountability from all stakeholders helping to enhance school governance as well as the objectivity and fairness of administrative management.
  2. Establishing a system of review of effectiveness
  3. Formulating strategies and monitoring performance
  4. Clear responsibility and accountability framework
  5. Compliance with requirements and taking practical action

Although there are a lot more frameworks globally on good governance, they all sh6c9ef529-9fbd-4276-b4f5-1a5493e85ddf.jpgare this founding value of a high level of transparency, data-based decision making and
monitoring of performance. As we know from inspection results, these are elements that are not always evident in many private schools. But as we all unify in our efforts to
support the national agenda, they will be taking centre stage. But not because it sounds good, or there is pressure from the top, but because there is evidence that it makes a positive difference in schools.
Maureen Lewis and Gunilla Pettersson (World Bank) conducted an international study and found evidence that:

 “good governance can serve as an entry point to raising institutional performance in the delivery of education services.”

So how can we help those school leaders and operators who still need to be convinced of the make the shift?

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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

Progressive vision in Dubai private schools at What Works 2015

The third What Works event and first in 2015 was held on the 19th of January. Educational professionals from all over Dubai private schools came together to exchange their best practices on teaching, learning and leadership in schools. This series also included the signature workshops dedicated to  professional knowledge sharing for school leaders where a key talking point was the challenge to meet the National Agenda 2021 and Dubai Plan 2021. Schools are being asked to improve student achievement and improve Dubai’s ranking on international tests. Private school leaders are taking this tall order from HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum very seriously. The message is clear, residents of Dubai should be assured that their kids are in schools that are one of the best in the world!

With this demand hanging in the Dubai air; it was only natural that What Works dedicates a series of leadership workshops on school self-evaluation where school leaders exchange their expertise to promote systemic measurable school improvement. At this particular event in January, there was a focus on the practical coupling of performance management and school vision.

Effective educational leaders help their schools to develop or endorse visions that embody the best thinking about teaching and learning.

– Task Force on Developing Research in Educational Leadership (2003)

With this in mind, a group of school leaders from Dubai schools reviewed their approaches on:

  1. How they reflect the needs of their school in the school vision?
  2. How they ensure the vision is appreciated and owned by various stakeholders?; and
  3. How they make the vision operational in daily practice across the school?

visionThere is no scarcity of literature on the galvanizing effect of a progressive school vision that is well implemented. Moreover, a quick visit to most Dubai private schools will show that vision statements are a dime a dozen boasting laudable goals of whole student development, 21st century skills and the fostering of life-long learners.

So why all the attention on school vision and performance management?

This audience took progressive school vision a step further. They talked about the alignment of school-based outcomes and the vision with an explicit purpose: the daily practices in their schools should result in desired outcomes. This is a shift from static leader-driven visions to a shared vision that promotes a learning organization.

You cannot have a learning organisation without a shared vision…A shared vision provides a compass to keep learning on course when stress develops

– Peter Senge

This meant a few tweaks in how some leaders were thinking about their school vision. Yes, it is good to consider the desired outcome when creating a vision. But, it is also necessary to consider the evidence of the current context using data collected from various sources such as assessment results, staff anperformanced student attendance rates, staff turnover rates, disciplinary incidents, parental surveys, and student questionnaires. These data can be utilized to develop evidence-based strategies for a vision that moves schools from the abstract to the real – in other words, from traditional goals to progressive goals using a SMART framework. Progressive goals that will support an actionable school improvement plan to get the most out of the school vision.

Reflecting on Ed-Tech at the Digital Education Show Middle East

The Digital Education Show Middle East has been taking place at the Dubai International Exhibition and Convention Centre this week. At the heart of the numerous exhibitors marketing their products and services is a conference program that boasts speakers such as Sugata Mitra and Ron Packard. Dr. Sugata is a 2013 TED Prize hole_in_the_wallwinner and professor of educational technology at Newcastle University (UK) well known for his educational research on the “Hole in the Wall” experiment promoting the notion of self-instruction and peer-peer knowledge building. Ron Packard is the CEO and Founder of K12 Inc., one of the largest education companies in the world with $1 billion revenue, who also shared his thoughts on the significance of technology in education.

As the event progressed and various experts, educationalists, and ed-tech leaders spoke about the trends and needs of ed-tech, it became obvious that the field is evolving from a product-based focus to a personalized learning focus. This might seem obvious to many educators, but was a shift for many educational decision makers from the region who talked about the costly mistakes of attending to infrastructure and hardware rather than ensuring responsive educational tools and content that directly respond to the professional and pedagogical needs of teachers and students.

At our overcrowded round table this week, we talked through the different opportunities for ed-tech to support the personalization of instruction using technology. For practical reasons we focused on mobile learning and learning analytics as illustrated in the figure below.

edtech

 

After insightful comments and questions from the classroom teachers, school leaders, developers, and government officials at the table, there were strong common messages that surfaced:

  1. The current integration of technology in the classroom lacks a holistic approach
  2. Teachers are struggling with the alignment of assessments given current instructional pathways facilitated by technology
  3. Teachers are struggling with balancing the personalization of instruction and learning with competing demands from stakeholders
  4. Software developers need to work more directly with educators to ensure their products are effective as measured by increased student engagement and learning
  5. The disparity between English and Arabic Ed-tech is widening because of the lack of high quality Arabic language ed-tech content for the teachers and students in the Middle East
  6. Parental engagement and support is critical to success because of the demands on the students to engage individually with the learning tools

 

0digitaleducationshowme2014webheader10002302In all of the discussions at the show, the idea of integrating technology into teaching and learning had less to do with the individual tools and more to do with the process of how the instruction would change to capitalize on those tools. It reflected the needs of students who are simply not excited about technology because it is not special to them because they are digital natives. As Sir Ken Robinson states:

I wasn’t very excited about electricity …. and our kids aren’t really that excited about a lot of the technology that excite adults, they simply take them for granted.

So as we move into this next generation of teaching and learning, with almost 70% of students in the region graduating feeling unprepared and over 60% of employers in the region telling us the students are not prepared for the workforce, how can we support the needs of the Middle East to ensure that Ed-tech supports today’s youth?iStock_000000239353Small_display