ABU DHABI // Education officials in the capital plan to update the public high school system after a study found that most students are being subjected to outdated teaching methods.
The reforms will involve a reduction in the number of subjects taught in Grades 10, 11 and 12, said Dr Mugheer al Khaili, the director general of the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec).
He said students in those grades were "still being taught in an old-fashioned manner and if the pedagogy is not changed soon we will not be able to achieve the 2030 strategy".
"We are working on new pathways, one of them being reducing the number of subjects we teach today, which is around 13, to six or seven."
The decision was based on a desire to more closely align schools with international practice, and was necessary to increase student performance through a modern and integrated learning approach, Dr al Khaili said at a workshop to discuss the world's most improved school systems.
The 2030 strategy is Abu Dhabi's "2030 Vision" to modernise the capital while preserving national identity. In terms of education, the vision looks at nurturing talent that will contribute to the country's development and compete on a global scale.
A lack of preparedness leads to more than 95 per cent of public school graduates having to enrol in remedial courses that can take as long as two years. The classes are needed to improve skills in subjects including English and IT before the graduates can go to university. Adec aims to eliminate the need for such programmes by 2017.
"This will take a lot of effort and more time," Dr al Khaili said. "I hope to see a big change in that equation in five to six years."
Education initiatives are similar to those in other developing countries, according to Dr Mona Mourshed, of the consultancy McKinsey & Company, who co-authored a recent research report on the success of 20 school systems around the world.
After Adec effectively took over the public education system in the capital and neighbouring regions a few years ago, it was faced with challenges of low student performance, absenteeism, limited teaching resources and inadequate teacher qualifications. About 75 per cent of principals had significant gaps in their leadership capabilities. Initiatives to address those issues were introduced about two years ago and included the appointment of Licensed Teachers (LTs) in all public schools to supervise and train educators.
The New School Model, rolled out last year, emphasised bilingual education in public schools and was introduced in the lower grades, with mathematics and science taught in English.
Samira al Nuaimi, the vice principal of Salamah Bint Butti School in Bani Yas, said the LTs scheme had shown positive results. "Our students are more motivated and the schools communication with parents has improved as well," she said.
Dr al Khaili said an Adec-sponsored study found the new model had addressed many shortcomings. "It has caused a 35 per cent increase in the number of enrolments this year," he said. "This shows that parents are regaining confidence in the education imparted in public schools."
Judging by the data on student outcomes, Dr Mourshed said the UAE's performance could be placed between "poor" and "fair"."The UAE's complex system makes it unique and some schools may be performing at a much higher level as well," she said. "This depends on where you are in the country, too."
Fatma al Marri, a Federal National Council member who serves as the chief executive of the Dubai School Agency, said: "We have to start with teachers and raise their profile, as well as improve teaching methods. Only that will bring about the necessary transformation in education."