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Frequently Asked Questions: Why WSA?

Frequently Asked Questions: Why WSA?

What is WhichSchoolAdvisor.com?

WSA provides a dedicated, authoritative, continually updated space for advice and information on education in the UAE. Its aim is to help you in determining which school is right for you or your children.

What are your qualifications to do this?

One of the most important decisions parents have to make is to which school to entrust their child’s education. This can present real challenges for expatriate parents in the Gulf where there is often a dearth of quality information about the schools in a particular area. We do not purport to be experts in this but, as parents ourselves have a little insight into the questions being asked. We therefore aim to create a quality site that offers a focal point for information and offer a few answers to the questions being asked.

It is important to point out that two of the team have experience of their children being educated at the various school levels in Dubai and one also at a UK boarding school. The other member of the team is a Headteacher with many years experience in the UAE. All three are well versed in the challenges and concerns that parents face when educating their children overseas.

Read the About Us here…

How do you get the information that’s on this site?

In many cases the information is out there, we identify it and pull it together by way of reference in this site. A great deal of time and energy has gone into this task researching school websites, published inspection reports in Dubai and so forth. At the present time this information tends to be quite factual. In time, as school and parental information comes together there will be more anecdotal and qualitative information, something that many parents want as this offers a greater sense of the ethos and culture of the schools.

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Can you be really honest?

The information presented is fair and honest. Important in this is that the schools themselves also have the opportunity to advise us of any inadvertent errors that may have been made further ensuring the accuracy and currency of the site.

So, what are the best schools in the UAE?

A great question and one that many parents would ask. But this is really about ‘horses for courses’ and the criteria used to make the judgment is the driver in this question. All too often, the criteria used to make these judgments are limited and driven by external examination results and therefore, by their very nature, may exclude excellent schools that add real value to a child’s learning and wider education. Perhaps a better question for parents to ask is: which is the right school for my child?

Does it matter what the best schools are if you cannot get your children into them?

Oversubscription of schools is a real challenge faced by many parents coming to the UAE and those who move from one school section to the next when there is not a through school opportunity for their child. Your school of choice may not be available due to extensive waiting-lists, but you do have choice and there are many excellent schools that maybe open to you.

It is first important to check with the school as there maybe vacancies and/or a short waiting-list in the actual year for which you seek admission, the school can advise you as they are rigorous with their waiting-list. For those schools with debentures where priority is given, for example, to corporate debentures, there maybe an admission opportunity should you be entitled to access one of these debentures. Another area worth exploring is sibling policies where rules may result in siblings being viewed favourably on the school waiting-list.

Do you rank the schools?

No, but we do believe that over time the parents comments will lead to a better understanding of which schools offer the best education in a range of areas.

What information do you provide that I cannot get from elsewhere?

At present, if you have the time to put into the research, very little. However you would need a great deal of time to put together what you will find collated for you on these pages.

However, over time this site will attract comment from a range of stakeholders, perhaps also even the students. That will be important information about a school that you will not find elsewhere.

What information do you provide that I cannot get from a KHDA report?

KHDA, DSIB school inspection report is an evidence-based document that focuses on the specific areas of that year’s inspection. There are areas of the school that may not have been reported on such as the arts or the quality of the extracurricular activities. This site starts to present these areas also and, although not evidence-based research, they will be areas of interest and strengths that have been identified by the stakeholders. In time, a site such as this will start to present qualitative and anecdotal aspects and offer a more general overview of the school as it relates to the day-to-day business of children, young adults, their learning and development.

Can you really evaluate schools when there is no real data?

Yes! Just visit a school and within a short time you will get a sense of the quality of that school as it relates to you and your cultural needs, more importantly, your son or daughter’s needs. That ‘gut feeling’ brings all of the senses together to enable you to make a value judgment, it is not specifically evidence-based as in an inspection but is fairly accurate. I suspect that if you asked a school inspector their opinion, they would also say the same and something they sensed with a short time of being in a school.

How will you develop the site?

Perhaps a better question is how will you as a parent contribute to the development of this site?

We will undertake a continuous cycle of review of the information on the site to ensure the current nature of it. We will also start to develop WSA by adding features and information that are relevant to parents as they travel through the school years with their sons or daughters and also face the challenges that this may throw up. A little extra information or that reassuring comment of ‘that is quite normal for this age range’ may help parents and schools a little as learning and youngsters just growing up can be challenging at times.

Isn’t this the job of the KHDA?

The MOE, KHDA and ADEC all oversee and regulate school education in their regions. They apply and monitor the laws to ensure a minimum quality of schooling and that nothing untoward is happening in the schools. This is a huge task in itself in a country where there are so many different styles of school. These are regulatory bodies and this site will offer a source of information that goes beyond the regulatory and, over time, will offer a real insight into the culture of the schools. This is more likely to be anecdotal whereas the regulatory bodies can only deal with the facts as the evidence shows.

You have membership – what are you charging for?

Information that you cannot always get easily and, over time, a range of information and/or articles/guides that may help you in navigating and managing the school years: an experience that can now be very different to the one that you had.

We only charge you if you look at over 20 articles in a month, which means that unless you do heavy research, you are unlikely to be asked to pay.

How can you justify charging for this site?

Easily and at its most basic level: you get what you pay for.  For WSA to become sustainable and continue to develop as a top class site we need to continue to invest in it to ensure its success.

You don’t rate the schools yourself, but let parents – why?

A school’s success speaks for itself but usually this is only to the immediate community. We need to broaden this reach and who better to sell a school than its parents as it is these comments that will often be more relevant to other parents. The educationalist in our team, would go one further and get the students to rate the schools as well. Who better?

Can parents use WSA to make their decisions on which school?

Parents make the decision on which school is best for their son or daughter based on answers to a range of personal criteria which may vary from one family to the next. WSA will offer a quality site that will quite inform this important decision.

Some school reviews are quite limited…

The information on each school has been drawn together from a range of sources and, to be honest, some schools have limited information upon which to draw. Often there is no published inspection report on a school, which further limits our abilities to write a comprehensive review. This, therefore, reflects the dearth of information in the public domain that many parents find.

We are asking all schools to complete a questionnaire that will further inform WSA. Stakeholders will start to add to the WSA site and, over time, this will grow and become a most valuable source of information, even for those schools that presently have limited public information.

Do you think school fees are too expensive?

Have you ever heard anyone say that I think school fees are cheap? This depends upon your point of reference for fees as in some cases they are cheaper than elsewhere! Generally, the fees will reflect the quality of the school, its building, ICT provision and general resourcing, particularly the cost of its teaching staff. Schools recruit from the international field and/or that of the home country of curriculum of the school where market conditions prevail and to attract the best staff to a school can be expensive.

Will you publish the waiting lists for school admission?

Yes, we will, although extracting this information can be problematic, and we will not be able to claim to always be fully comprehensive and up to date. We have provided contact details on each review for schools where we have not managed to obtain information, and for parents to confirm the information in our latest waiting list report.

Are you launching the site because schools are communicating poorly with parents?

No. Naturally, there is a range in schools with some being far more effective than others in communicating to its stakeholders, prospective parents and the community. But for all schools this is an ongoing challenge and WSA can offer another route that will help schools in this. It is hoped that this new WSA communication route is seen by the schools as a supporting and mutually beneficial initiative and not a challenging one.

There is another point worth raising and that is that the social media can no longer be ignored by schools and those that learn to embrace it will find it and sites such as this a powerful communicator that will further connect them to their community.

Final comment

For parents finding the right school for their children is one of the most important decision that they will make. In building an appropriate relationship with the school and its staff to further develop the learning partnership between parents, student and school is crucial to the success in realising their son or daughter’s potential. The aim of this site, whichschooladviser.com, is quite simply to support parents and schools in this process, as better informed parents and schools will benefit the learner at all stages of their school-based education.

We look forward to your support in this.

 

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