What is effective School Leadership for supporting Students of Determination in Dubai?

In recent years, there has been a shift from a medical understanding to a social understanding in addressing disabilities. This shift opens up opportunities for promoting learning among students of determination by eliminating environmental barriers. In November 2017, KHDA introduced the Dubai Inclusive Education Policy Framework to guide Dubai private schools and other educational institutes to create inclusive learning environments protecting and assuring the right to education for students of determination. This KHDA Chatter focuses on the role of school leadership as a changemaker for meeting the needs of students of determination as outlined in the Dubai Inclusive Education Policy Framework (KHDA, 2017).

Research has shown that school leadership influences student outcomes (Leithwood, Seashore, Anderson, and Walstrom, 2004). Strong instructional leadership, together with efficient school management, make an effective school principal. Their leadership is critical for improving learning opportunities for all students, especially for those of determination. In fact, research has identified that principals who focus on instructional issues, demonstrate administrative support for special education, and provide high-quality professional development for teachers produce better outcomes for students of determination and others at risk for school failure (DiPaola and Walther-Thomas, 2003).

In a review of developments over the past decade for Dubai’s private K-12 schools, KHDA highlights the role of Dubai’s school principals in increasing opportunities for students of determination. Over the past four years, the number of Dubai’s private schools judged as having good or better leadership for their provision for students of determination increased from 46% in 2014 to 71% in 2018. This is an increase of 25 percentage points (KHDA, 2018). The review discusses  improvements in terms of Dubai school principals’ support in defining procedures that accurately identify students’ needs, engaging parents to partner in students’ learning process, and modifying teaching strategies to meet individual students’ needs, abilities and interests.

The measures for inclusive learning environments are being introduced as part of Dubai’s move to become a fully-inclusive city by 2020. The Dubai Disabilities Strategy (Nazzal, 2015) has an aspirational vision to create a fully cohesive and inclusive society where the rights and access to equitable opportunities for people of determination are assured and protected. Dubai’s private schools are a cornerstone of this change.




DiPaola, M. F., Walther-Thomas, C. (2003). Principals and special education: The critical role of school leaders (COPPSE Document No. IB-7). Gainesville, FL: University of Florida, Center on Personnel Studies in Special Education.

KHDA (2018). Dubai Private Schools A Decade of Growth Key Findings 2008-2018. Knowledge and Human Development Authority, Dubai, UAE.

KHDA (2017). Dubai Inclusive Education Policy Framework. Knowledge and Human

Development Authority, Dubai, UAE.

Leithwood, K., Seashore, K.L., Anderson, S., and Walstrom, K (2004). Review of Research: How Leadership Influences Student Learning. Published by the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

Nazzal, Noor (2015, December 12) Shaikh Mansour launches Dubai Disability Strategy 2020.

Retrieved from: https://gulfnews.com/uae/government/shaikh-mansour-launches-dubai-disability-strategy-2020-1.1635985


How is the city of Dubai, and its schools, becoming more inclusive? Share your observations!

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