ABU DHABI // Religious studies teachers say more room for creativity in their lessons and more involvement from parents would improve children’s education in the subject.
Teachers and parents discussed the problem after attending a lecture on the weak level of Islamic studies at Abu Dhabi and Dubai private schools.
Abdul-Bari Mohammad, an Islamic studies teacher at Emirates International School, said the problem was that teachers felt restricted. They must take generic information from the curriculum and are unable to develop lessons on the subject.
Mr Mohammad said religious teachers felt they bore the burden of low ratings at schools, but other factors caused the problem, such as lack of interest from pupils.
“The pupil arrives in class knowing that the subject is not one of the International Baccalaureate subjects, and for him the other subjects are more important,” he said.
Dr Hanan Shaher, chairman of Gulf Union Centre, said parents needed to show more interest in Islamic studies and follow their children’s progress.
“Some parents rely completely on the teacher, and do not take an active role and cooperate with the school and teacher,” Dr Shaher said.
Another teacher attending the event, said he had been teaching the subject for 10 years.
The curriculum is good but the level of comprehension is low because they are weak in Arabic, he said.
“You find a fifth-grader can barely understand what is written in the book,” the teacher said.
Teachers’ attitudes reflect on pupils’ willingness to learn, said Abdullah Rothman, assistant director of spiritual life and intercultural education at New York University Abu Dhabi.
“For me, I am not so concerned whether my kids have a bad connection with chemistry, but when it comes to Islam, I am really concerned what my kids are receiving and what it means to be a Muslim,” he said.
Dr Nadeem Memon, head of education at Abu Dhabi University Knowledge Group, advised teachers and schools to reflect more on how to engage inattentive students. But teachers rarely have the time, he said.
“Teachers are looking for a sense of inspiration because there is so much pressure on them,” Dr Memon said. “They need to love teaching again.”
Workshops and forums on Islamic studies could help to motivate teachers, he said.
“Not all students coming to Islamic studies are keen and wanting to learn,” Dr Memon said. “The leadership of the school has to champion the importance of Islamic studies.”