Dubai private schools 'failing' students in Arabic

While most Dubai students might be able to fluently read and write Arabic, and even pass exams with flying colours, very few can actually converse in the language outside their classroom.

This is what the recent Dubai School Inspection Bureau (DSIB) report has substantiated.

Students, despite, learning Arabic, as a second language, aren’t able to grasp the nuances of the language.

While experts agreed that the curriculum needs an innovative make-over, they believe the onus should lie with the schools.

“As a first language, with the curriculum set by the Ministry of Education, Arabic is good, but a lot needs to be done with the second-language curriculum,” reported DSIB chief Jameela Al Muhairi, adding that when she recently visited an Indian school, a student was able to read in Arabic fluently, but went blank when asked to explain its meaning.

“We want to shift this mentality, so that students can use it. It’s not enough that they just read and pass exams,” she added.

Dr Abdullah Al Karam, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Director General of KHDA, admitted that there are challenges but schools must devise ways to overcome this flaw.

“Yes, there are many challenges. Where do you get the teachers for Arabic? But, many schools (like the ones graded “outstanding”) have shown creative ways of overcoming it. These schools, didn’t give in to the challenges, but innovated on it.”

[Click here to read the latest ratings of Dubai schools]

Jameela elucidated how the “outstanding” schools developed interesting strategies to make Arabic exciting for the children.

“You don’t want to be boring when you teach Arabic. And, this is what we allow the schools to do. They can set their standard and, this is what we measure.

“For Arabic as the first language, they have to follow the standard set by the Ministry of Education,” she elaborated.

The progress, she believed, will shift gradually and could take a few years, adding that the challenges are similar for Arabic students who learn English as a second language.

The DSIB report observed that students make less rapid progress in Islamic Education and Arabic, than in other key subjects, with the “outstanding” schools showcasing how they take steps to improve the quality of teaching and learning and check the timetables, annually, to ensure it is in compliance with the Ministry of Education regulations.

While most schools, even those “outstanding” ones, reported that the challenges escalate when they are teaching children from different nationalities, many have devised ways of restricting the curriculum to overcome it.

“We’ve chalked out practices like videoing (Arabic) lessons, and have developed and resourced the curriculum internally.

“It is then shared with the Ministry and with other schools.

“There are enrichment programmes, recitation clubs, and the progress is then relayed to the parents,” explained Emma Leigh-Bennett - Head of Secondary at Wellington International School.

“And we give our Arabic teachers additional time to plan their work and share the resourcing.

“We are also looking at reducing the class sizes to ensure better focus.”

Most parents, however, told DSIB about their dissatisfaction over the way their children learnt Arabic (as a second language).

Even, students, who were interviewed, claimed their progress in Arabic was not strong as in other subjects.

“I feel that Arabic is not developed well. It is not taught in the right way. Even my friends complain about it,” a student told DSIB.

Some key findings in the DSIB report

  • The degree of improvement in students’ progress in Arabic, over the four year inspection period, continues to be considerably less than in other key subjects.
  • A significant minority of private schools still fail to meet the Ministry of Education requirements for Islamic Education and Arabic.
  • There are a few schools that fail to ensure that first language Arabic students follow the correct programme. These students are taught as additional language learners, which means they are often not challenged to reach the required levels in their mother tongue.
  • In most UK schools, students’ progress in Arabic as a first and as an additional language has improved this year. However, overall, students’ performance in Arabic is not as good as in other subjects.
  • Despite some improvements in students’ attainment in Arabic as a first or additional language, in the majority of US schools attainment levels in most key subjects remained stable in 2011-12.
  • Under the Indian curriculum, students’ attainment in Arabic as an additional language is far lower than all other key subjects. The majority of students learning Arabic as an additional language achieve only acceptable levels of attainment despite several years of study.
  • Teaching, and consequently attainment and progress, in Islamic Education and Arabic have improved in most IB curriculum schools.
  • In schools offering French curriculum, the relatively high achievement of students in the key subjects of French, English, Science and Mathematics is not matched with equal success in Arabic.
  • All Iranian schools provide an acceptable curriculum based on the Iranian National curriculum. However, the UAE MOE requirements regarding Islamic Education and Arabic are not met.

The curriculum is narrow in these schools, especially for higher attaining students with a lack of choice in subjects. The curriculum lacks enrichment, cross-curricular opportunities and real life links.

Dubai allows private schools to hike fees between 3 to 6%

Dubai schools rated “outstanding” will be allowed to hike fee by six per cent this year, said Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), the education regulatory authority.

The new school fee framework for Dubai’s private school is based on a fresh framework based on quality of education (as per Dubai Schools Inspection results) and an Educational Cost Index (ECI) calculated by the Dubai Statistics Centre.  The framework was developed in cooperation with Department of Economic Development, Department of Finance, Dubai Chamber of Commerce, Dubai Real Estate Corporation, Dubai Statistics Centre, the Dubai Executive Council and KHDA, the statement said.

KHDA said in a statement that schools achieving a “good” ranking will be allowed to raise fees by 4.5 per cent and three per cent to schools rated “acceptable” and “unsatisfactory” for the academic year 2012-2013.

Mohammed Darwish, chief of Regulations and Compliance Commission said: “The framework prioritises the interests of students and parents and encourages investment in the education sector by allowing schools to develop long term growth plans, as well as motivating existing schools to improve the quality of education they offer. The framework is evidence-based work and relies on data about the education landscape in Dubai. It is in line with KHDA’s remit to support schools in providing quality education.”

The framework also regulates registration and admission deposits as well refund policies for new and current students.

“While all of Dubai’s private schools will fall under generic conditions of the framework, non-profit schools and those schools planning to invest in their infrastructure that would lead to improvements in quality and directly benefit students academically will be considered for exceptions. The specific conditions for this have been identified in the framework. Individual applications from schools will be reviewed by KHDA, as will the cases for students with special needs,” KHDA said in a statement today.

Those schools who’re allowed to hike fee will not able be permitted for another hike over the next three years. However, those schools who opened after 2008 cannot hike the fee either.

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