DUBAI // Parents of children at British schools are calling for proper training of teachers ahead of the sweeping changes to the UK curriculum.
The UK government said yesterday that it would introduce a new curriculum for primary and secondary schools by September next year.
It will place greater emphasis on skills such as essay writing, problem-solving, mathematical modelling and computer programming.
The curriculum, described by the British prime minister David Cameron as a "revolution in education", will require children aged 5 to learn basic fractions while nine-year-olds will be expected to know their 12-times tables.
British education secretary Michael Gove told the BBC the changes were needed for pupils to keep pace with those in other countries.
"No national curriculum can be modernised without paying close attention to what's been happening in education internationally," said Mr Gove.
But the ATL teachers' union in the UK has said the timetable for implementing the changes is "completely unrealistic".
And parents in the UAE say they are worried there is not enough time to retrain teachers to ensure the quality of education is maintained.
"Keeping up with the times is important for advancing," said Samar Adlouni, whose daughter will start her first year at the Jumeirah English Speaking School in September.
"But any change has to continue to benefit everybody involved, including students and teachers.
"Teachers must receive training, especially in the UAE where they will be receiving second-hand information.
"Maybe a team of trainers should be flown in to educate teachers of the changes so the quality of education does not suffer."
Mrs Adlouni said she had chosen the British curriculum for her daughter because she felt it had the right balance of education and activities.
"The British Curriculum is very strong academically but they also have plenty of extracurricular activities," she said.
Manal Abu Eisa, a mother of three children at Ansar International school in Sharjah, said she was afraid the new changes would make her children's education more difficult.
"The British Curriculum is already very difficult and precise and I feel that these changes might make it ever more complicated," Mrs Abu Eisa said.
She was worried the changes would increase the number of unqualified teachers in the UAE.
"There is already a disaster happening as many middle-range fee schools in the country employ unqualified teachers who do not have experience in teaching the British curriculum," Mrs Abu Eisa said.
"Now with the introduction of this new curriculum it could mean that teachers would know even less about teaching."
Gems education group, which operates 16 British Curriculum schools in the UAE, has said it will ensure its schools are ready to cope with any changes.
"International schools have always adapted to the changing demands of any alterations to a home country's national curriculum," said Margaret Atack, group senior director of Education at Gems.
Ms Atack said the group had yet to be given any official notice, but "Gems English National Curriculum schools have been actively examining what changes will need to be made to meet those expectations".
Not all parents are worried about the change. Neveen Al Gharbaly, a mother of four pupils at West Green School in Sharjah, said she appreciated that the new curriculum gave more freedom to teachers.
"Giving teachers and schools the freedom to draft their own policies on how they want to teach the curriculum will have a good effect as they can tailor their programmes to fit the needs of their children," Mrs Al Gharbaly said.
She said she was confident the British government had studied the changes carefully before deciding to introduce them.
"They must be sure that it is for the better and that they will be successful and if they are to work in the UK, I do not see why they should not work in the UAE," Mrs Al Gharbaly said.