On 1 March 2017, Executive Council Resolution No. 2 of 2017 regulating the Work of Private Schools in Dubai (Resolution) came into force. The Resolution applies to all private schools in Dubai, including those in Dubai's free zones and its stated aims include improving the educational environment, encouraging investment in private schools and linking the outcomes of the education system with the approved strategies of the Emirate of Dubai.
This article explores the implications of the Resolution from an employment perspective for private school employers in Dubai.
New powers for the KHDA
The Resolution restates and broadens the powers of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA). From an employment perspective, such duties include:
- approving the appointment or replacement of the principal and members of the teaching, management and technical staff of the school (referred to as "educational staff");
- creating a database relating to students and educational staff of the school; and
- approving the conduct of conduct and professional ethics for private schools and educational staff.
New obligations for private schools
The Resolution also imposes a number of obligations on schools and prescribes relatively severe penalties for breaching such obligations. The obligations which are likely to have most impact from an employment perspective include:
- continuous development of the academic staff in a way that achieves quality of education. Specifically, annual development plans must be prepared. If this is not already occurring, schools should consider preparing development plans (which specifically focus on improving quality of education) as part of the annual appraisal process, for example;
- not changing the owner, operator or principal of the school without obtaining the KHDA's prior approval. It is not yet clear what the criteria is for obtaining such approval or on what basis such approval may be rejected. Breaching this provision attracts a fine of up to AED 50,000;
- appointing educational staff which meet the conditions approved by the KHDA and obtaining KHDA approval in advance of such appointment. Breaching this provision attracts a fine of up to AED 100,000;
- entering information relating to students and educational staff into the database created by the KHDA. Schools should consider obtaining consent from students and staff to do so. Breaching this provision attracts a fine of up to AED 50,000;
- applying the code of conduct and professional ethics for private schools approved by the KHDA. Schools may impose additional rules and regulations relating to staff but these must not contravene the approved code of conduct. Once the code of conduct is released, schools will need to review their current policies to identify any areas of non-compliance. Breaching this provision attracts a fine of up to AED 20,000;
- taking the necessary actions for encouraging and motivating UAE nationals to join its educational staff according to the applicable legislation and rules approved by the KHDA. Emiratisation is a topical issue in all sectors at the moment and the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation has recently introduced a number of initiatives aimed at encouraging and/or compelling the recruitment of UAE nationals into the private sector, including "Tawteen Gate".
In addition to the above, specific penalties exist for inequality or discrimination between students (AED 25,000) and defamation of religions (AED 50,000).
The prevention of discrimination appears to be a key focus for the KHDA and the Resolution follows the release of the Tolerance Charter by the KHDA which requires educational staff in schools to sign to confirm that, amongst other things, they will comply with the UAE's Anti Discrimination Law of 2015.
Under the Anti Discrimination Law, representatives and managers of a company can potentially be jointly liable where an employee breaches the law in the company's name and on its behalf. With this in mind, it has become increasingly important for schools to implement clear policies warning employees that discrimination will not be tolerated and defining acceptable conduct in this regard.
It will be interesting to see whether this development (and an increased awareness of the anti-discrimination protections in the UAE) may pave the way for an increased number of allegations of discrimination by students where, for example, they receive a lower grade than a fellow student or fail to receive the same work experience opportunity as a fellow student.
Given its recent introduction, the impact of the Resolution in practice remains to be seen. However, it is clear that, in line with the approach being taken across the UAE, Emiratisation and Anti Discrimination should be key focuses for schools going forward.
Given the relatively severe penalties for breaches of the Resolution, Schools would be well advised to familiarise themselves with the requirements and closely monitor developments to ensure they comply with its requirements.