DUBAI // International Baccalaureate schools have admitted there is urgent need to improve teaching of Arabic and Islamic studies, as the number of Emirati pupils grows.
“If we want graduates to belong we need to start paying attention to the language,” said Mary Tadros, regional manager for IB Middle East. “If we do not give our respect to Arabic, we have lost their education.”
Emirati parents are increasingly choosing to educate their children in the schools because they are known to provide a better chance at getting into a good university.
The IB Organisation (IBO), based in Geneva, Switzerland, works with 3,555 schools in 144 countries around the world and is quickly expanding in the region.
The UAE has 45 schools with IB elements, the IBO said – the highest number in the region.
Its website lists 24 schools that are fully accredited. In Dubai, 10,047 pupils study in IB-curriculum schools.
Dr Samia Al Farra, chief educational officer of Taaleem, which manages four schools offering different levels of the programme, said Arabic was often regarded as too difficult to teach in international schools.
“Parents see it as a burden, teachers find it a challenge and administrators do not know how to schedule it,” said Dr Al Farra.
More than 200 teachers from IB schools in the Middle East have gathered in Dubai this week for a two-day conference where they will discuss ways to collaborate and improve the system to meet local requirements.
The event, which began yesterday, was organised by the Middle East IB Association.
An education report by the Dubai Schools Inspections Bureau last year found the IB curriculum schools offered strengths in leadership, pupils’ attitudes to learning and its approach to real-life learning.
But inspectors said schools needed to ensure the good teaching and learning so evident in other subjects was also being followed in Arabic and Islamic education lessons.
“It’s about bringing two cultures together, but not at the expense of the other,” said Dr Al Farra, who hoped to promote a stronger bilingual presence in international schools. “Children who are not connected to their mother tongue grow up confused and it breeds a sense of inferiority.”
She said the onus for teaching pupils about their first language and culture was not only on teachers but also parents.
“In school we need more training for Arabic teachers so that they change their methods,” Dr Al Farra said. “But this also needs to be complemented by the parents’ and grandparents’ involvement.”
Ms Tadros said her organisation had begun training sessions for local teachers.
“We are now going to schools and training teachers in their own language and are also translating a lot of material into Arabic.”
Dr Al Farra said getting out of the classroom was an important aspect in teaching Arabic.
“Take children to the garden, the aquarium and museums in the emirate to teach,” she said.
“Teachers must find their own resources and try to incorporate technology that children use to make lessons joyous.”
IBO officials also said they are trying to collaborate with local education authorities in the UAE to get more IB schools off the ground, and existing schools up to scratch.
Last year, the organisation linked up with the Knowledge and Human Development Authority to improve standards.
Adrian Kearney, regional director of IB’s Africa, Europe and Middle East arm, said it was in close discussion with Abu Dhabi Education Council to support the growth of IB.
“We are developing an understanding of what it is to be an IB school,” said Mr Kearney.
The IB authorisation process can take between two and three years to complete. During the candidacy phase, the school is visited by a team of IB officers to assess their readiness.
Schools must also implement a professional development plan for teachers to be trained in IB-recognised activities.
“There is a great interest to develop the country’s national system through programmes such as the IB,” Mr Kearney added