ABU DHABI // Several government kindergartens in the capital were forced to close registrations early for the new academic year because of demand.
Some facilities received more than 200 applications for no more than 80 seats since the registrations began last month.
Dr Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili, the director general of Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec), said the introduction of the New School Model (NSM) in 2010 had renewed parents’ confidence in the public education system. The NSM focuses on bilingual education and modern learning spaces.
“We have seen an increase in enrolment in kindergarten campuses,” Dr Mugheer said. “Last year, we accepted more pupils than what our standards per class allows us. This is because we cannot turn away any child.”
According to Adec, in 2010, kindergarten enrolments went up by 5 per cent over the previous year, and last year they increased again by 14 per cent. This year, too, the schools have exceeded their registration goals, Dr Mugheer said.
“Some kindergartens were full on the first day itself and had to close registrations,” he said.
Registration for government schools, which begin the new academic year in September, will end on March 22 for Emiratis.
Rawdat Al Mushrif School was one of the campuses that had to close registrations early.
“We are running at full capacity at the moment, and have closed registration for the next academic year,” said Jacqueline Smith, assistant principal at the primary school. The school follows a trilingual education model, teaching English, Arabic and Mandarin.
“Parents have heard about the NSM and are receiving assuring feedback about children being taught in a way that allows them to compete on an international level,” Ms Smith said. “Here, they are not just memorising facts but are learning skills and qualities they can use and share, like confidence, communication and empathy.”
Abdulla Al Ameri, 35, enrolled his daughter at the Rawdat school because he appreciates their professionalism.
“My daughter enjoys the Chinese classes,” he said. “She sings in the language all the time and knows the different words. She enjoys going to school every day because of the new techniques and activities. I like how the schools always communicate with the parents, too.”
However, not all parents are convinced just yet. Fatema Al Janaibi, an Emirati, said she would enrol her three-year-old son in a private kindergarten this year.
“The problem is every year we see a different school system. It’s not stable,” she said. “Even the new school model will take time to reach its objective, and till then he will continue at a private school.”
Adec began its efforts to raise national standards in 2009. A review had found shortcomings such as relatively low kindergarten enrolments and performances by pupils that were below grade level. Resources were not available for teachers, and there were only a few programmes for gifted children and the disabled. Facilities did not support learning activities and, as pupils advanced through the grade levels, their English and Arabic language skills were not progressing.
The NSM began in the lower grades with expatriate licensed teachers (LTs) instructing in science and maths in English alongside local educators. The authority has also built schools and renovated existing campuses. The system will be rolled out to all grades in every Adec institution by 2015.
Roqaya Al Shebani, the principal of Al Jazeera KG, said parents had always wanted higher English standards. “They look for schools that can provide strong maths and science education in English and more use of technology,” she said. “They were not getting this before.”
Registrations are open at the kindergarten but there are limited seats. Ms Al Shebani said the school was renovated two years ago to meet Adec standards. A playground, music room and drama hall were built on the eight-year-old campus.
“We have LTs helping our teachers and training them.”
Dr Linda Andrews, head of the English faculty at Al Taqwa Kindergarten in Al Ain, said more parents were making a choice to move their children to government campuses.
“Parents indicate the other neighbourhoods [families] speak highly of our kindergarten, and for that, they want the same experience for their young children.”
Dr Mugheer said the increased enrolments were an indicator of the change in parents’ attitudes towards early education.
“This is a good sign because pre-school is a very important stage in a pupil’s life, and it affects their future as well.”