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Dubai private schools must address Arabic teaching shortcomings, inspectors warn

DUBAI // Private schools in Dubai “must address the shortcomings of teaching Arabic as a first and additional language as a matter of urgency”, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority has said in a report.

The warning, issued on Monday in the KHDA’s annual report, Key Findings: 2013-2014 Inspection of Private Schools, outlines the strengths and weaknesses of the 141 private schools inspected by the agency and offers recommendations for improvements.

“Almost three-quarters of schools had shortcomings in Arabic as a first and additional language,” according to the report. “In some, there was a slight improvement in speaking and listening, but little improvement in reading and writing. Approaches to teaching and learning Arabic were too often repetitive and did not motivate or engage students.”

Other findings related to Islamic education and Arabic include:

* No overall improvement in attainment or progress in Arabic as a first language, and evidence of decline particularly in the primary phase.

* Little improvement in attainment or progress in Arabic as an additional language.

* Almost all outstanding schools had an area of Arabic where a significant improvement was required.

In its key recommendation related to Arabic, the KHDA said: “Some schools will be able to build on the good work started in improving speaking and listening, but all will need to develop students’ skills in reading and writing. Schools should broaden approaches to teaching and learning in Arabic so that students feel more enthusiastic, confident and competent, in speaking, reading and writing the language.”

Ayesha Al Janahi, a 31-year-old mother of a KG1 student attending a Dubai private school, praised the KHDA for highlighting the issue.

“The UAE identity should be instilled in children, but I realise some schools, they don’t even play the national anthem,” Mrs Al Janahi said. “Because, you know, if you want to instil something in children, it should be in the early years.”

She said she has begun singing the words of the national anthem to her four-year-old son before taking him to school so that he could learn the words and memorise them.

“The other thing is Islamic. They don’t have qualified teachers for teaching Islamic. They should memorise the verses, they should know the Holy Quran, they don’t do anything like this. The thing that they are lacking is the Islamic. You can see now most of the Emiratis, and the Arabs, they don’t have fluent Arabic, they are speaking as if they are just learning, like an expat mostly, not like their mother tongue is Arabic. This should have the biggest focus.”

About 29,000 Emiratis attend private schools in Dubai. Most of them – 16,260 – are enrolled in schools rated as “acceptable.” In all, there were 237,735 students enrolled in private schools in Dubai this academic year, compared to 221,332 last year.

The KHDA also emphasised the need for private schools to work toward meeting the international assessment benchmarks as outlined earlier this year by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid. Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, as part of his National Agenda. The targets call for the UAE to be among the 15 highest performing countries in TIMSS testing and among the 20 highest performing countries in PISA exams.

So far, only the International Baccalaureate and UK curriculum schools meet the National Agenda target in those tests, according to the latest test results.

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(via The National)