Dubai: New mandatory assessment announced for school students


A standardised reading literacy assessment that will be held three times per year has been officially mandated by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA).

This is as per the education regulator, who has stipulated that all students in the 6-15 age range are required to sit the test.

All schools in Dubai will participate in the digital Reading Literacy assessment for Grades 1 to 12, and the Arabic Benchmark Test, from Grades 1 to 9 with effect from the academic year 2023-24.

The guidelines state that tests must assess reading skills across a range of domains, with appropriate age-related emphases, including, but not limited to:

  • phonemic awareness
  • word recognition and phonics
  • reading comprehension
  • fluency
  • vocabulary
  • interpretive and comparative analysis of passages
  • application of understanding and critique of text
  • comprehension of different genres, including poetry.

Schools have the flexibility to select a reading assessment platform and provider that is appropriate for them and their context, as long as these meet the above requirements.

Assessments must be “computer-adaptive, and results should show each student’s reading age in comparison to grade/age expectations, and also a Standard Age Score (SAS) to facilitate comparison of data. They should allow a detailed analysis of results, which is then used to support identification of individual student needs and how these drive interventions with all students,” Peter Bonner, Assistant Principal Primary – Curriculum, Progress and Assessment, GEMS World Academy, added.

Headteachers explain this is part of the UAE’s commitment to maintaining high standards of education and, institutions are piloting these assessments in a few grades and sections based on random selection.

This is expected to help schools establish a baseline of students’ cognitive potential and achievements over time, and to facilitate necessary modifications to their learning.

While some schools have started sharing the results of the test with students, some still don’t.

Deepika Thapar Singh, CEO- Principal, Credence High School says, “The reading literary assessment should be external, standardised and reliable, and applicable for students across all curricula. These assessments should be aligned with the international definition of reading literacy, and [should] assess reading skills in line with those evaluated through international assessments, Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) and Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).”

She adds, “The assessment providers should provide the results showing each student’s reading age in comparison to grade/year level, at the time it is given. The assessments should also produce a SAS (Standard Age Score) for each student, to facilitate [the] comparison of data. The results are shared with all stakeholders. The analyses should enable schools to align the results of the reading assessment to be compared with the verbal component of the cognitive ability test.”

Educators say the outcome of these tests will not reflect on students’ results.

“Reading is followed by invigorating discussions using [the] Harkness Table Model of learning, and activities that promote deep critical thinking and a love for reading. The assessment data provides insight into students’ reading habits and abilities. It is also instrumental in [their] stellar performance in IBTs. The program provides an opportunity for quality family time during home reading sessions,” says Rashmi Nandkeolyar, Principal and Director, Delhi Private School (DPS) Dubai.

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