Each month, Weekend will pose a different question to be debated by a series of female Emirati columnists. This week, we ask Ayesha Al Mazroui:
Do you feel that the school systems, both public and post-secondary, are adequate for learning? What would you change, if anything?
Reforming education is a long-term process that is never easy in any country. Education authorities in the UAE have been working on improving standards on both emirate-wide and federal levels. However, there’s still much work to be done.
In Abu Dhabi, the Education Council has launched the New School Model based on bilingual teaching that will be fully operational by 2015. The Ministry of Education has also launched the Madares Al Ghad to enhance the quality of education in public schools in the UAE.
The three main federal higher education institutes – UAEU, Zayed University and Higher Colleges of Technology – have also been introducing changes, policies and majors to improve the quality of post-secondary education.
Despite all that, students’ academic performance is still disappointing. The latest Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, which measures grade 4 and 8 students in 63 countries, showed that UAE students are performing below the international average in these two subjects.
While students’ attitudes towards education play a key role in their learning, the curriculum, teaching environments and the methods used in the classroom are as important, if not more.
Another study, by Sohailah Makhmasi, a master’s engineering student at Khalifa University in 2012, revealed that students’ performance is affected by uninspiring teachers and poor teaching style. Students in government schools continue to suffer from the lack of English proficiency and most of them still need to take English courses when they enrol in universities.
Arts studies are also affected by the lack of critical thinking, as most teachers don’t seem to care enough to encourage it. It’s important for teachers not only to teach subjects, but also to discover students’ talents and help them to reach their potential. Unfortunately, our schools seem to be lacking this.
There is also the importance of preserving the Arabic language by improving teaching quality and making it more appealing to the students. The focus on memorisation and the lack of class activities have pushed students away from their mother language.
Balancing two languages is never easy, but it’s been successful in some education systems. In Singapore, a bilingual education policy has led to high student achievement in international benchmark tests. The UAE can learn from that.
The country is moving in the right direction, but it has still a long way to go. Education is one of these fields that is constantly changing and it requires continuous efforts to improve and keep up with today’s world.
The UAE always aims to be the best in everything. Let’s be the best in education by making it a national priority.
Ayesha Almazroui is an editorial writer with The National.
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