The National Agenda is clear about the need to raise attainment and progress for all students through an innovative education system for a knowledge and globally competitive society.
In part this is about ensuring that investment in education has a significant impact on the UAE economy by ensuring all groups of students achieve the best they can, including children in preschool education. However, there is also a specific interest in ensuring Emirati students achieve in line with other students across all types of schools.
Therefore, schools that can show how they have adopted effective strategies to raise the attainment for all students, who have previously struggled in education, will prove that they are effective inclusive educational institutions that can help Emirati students maximise their potential. The first step for these schools is a clear statement about their ambitions of what they want for all students to achieve including Emirati students.
They do this by identifying barriers to learning for pupils who previously not achieved as highly as they could do such as:
> A narrow experience of life beyond their own local community
> Low aspirations and expectations about what they want to do after leaving school
> Low levels of attendance at school
> Low levels of parental engagement
> Limited opportunities for speaking and listening beyond the family that lead to low levels of literacy
These characteristics affect all groups of underperforming students and tackling them are key features noted in Outstanding and Very Good schools. Schools that want to raise the attainment and progress of all groups including Emirati students need to adopt strategies that tackle these barriers.
Effective schools research the evidence of what works best for all and typically ensure that high-quality teaching is at the core of all work with students who need to catch up with their classmates. This includes getting ideas from other schools and countries that have tackled underperformance among specifically identified groups. They also evaluate their current strategies and assess how successful they have been in pursuit of raising achievement.
The specific strategies adopted for Emirati students are not seen as separate from the strategies adopted to raise attainment and accelerate progress for all students. Effective schools set about finding out what techniques work best for their students and ensure teachers consistently use those selected. There are hundreds of techniques and a key starting point is to use those they believe will work best for the students in their school.
Leadership also needs to regularly monitor and evaluate whether adopted techniques work or not, keeping those that work best for their own school and resources and dropping those that work less well.
Schools with proven records for closing gaps between different student groups emphasise:
> Importance of knowledge for all learning
> Direct explicit instruction about what students need to know
> Regular reinforcement and consolidation by testing and frequent drilling
> Frequent reference to prior learning to make it stick
> Using techniques to promote learning
> Teaching knowledge and understanding skills again and again so students can retrieve it automatically, for example multiplication tables