ABU DHABI // Private schools will come under closer government monitoring and teach compulsory national identity lessons under a law soon to be presented to the Federal National Council.
The Minister for Education, Humaid Al Qattami, told the council on Tuesday that the new law would require a greater emphasis on national identity in all schools.
Mr Al Qattami said that would include courses in Emirati society, Islamic studies and Arabic, due to start next academic year.
"The ministry stresses the importance of national identity for private schools, especially as a lot of our children go to these schools," he said. "The courses will be ready soon."
Schools are already required to fly a UAE flag and play the national anthem at morning assembly, Mr Al Qattami said.
New guidelines on national identity will be given to teachers at the start of the next year.
"After the law is passed we will have power over [private schools], and also the courses they run and activities that are directly linked to national identity," he said.
"I assure you that private schools are getting a lot of attention at the moment."
But the FNC member Ahmed Al Shamsi (Ajman) said it was not enough to pass laws, as greater supervision was needed.
"We are talking about a reality happening in private schools in the UAE, which has direct influence on education and national identity on our local children and Arab children studying in these schools," Mr Al Shamsi said.
"I ask the ministry to strengthen supervision over these schools, and fight all violations against national identity."
He said he realised the number of expatriates in the country made that difficult.
"Every nationality has their own customs and values and religions, and these mix through schools and curriculums,"Mr Al Shamsi said.
The minister agreed, saying that while the ministry previously had little power to supervise private schools, the law would change that.
"The ministry will hopefully play a bigger role in monitoring and have more power through laws that will come soon," Mr Al Qattami said.
Mr Al Shamsi bemoaned the quality of teaching in Arabic and Arab history in private schools.
Many Arab pupils at secondary school level could not even read an Arabic newspaper, he said, and learnt western rather than UAE history and culture.
He said some teachers were disrespectful to the country's customs.
"Most of teachers in private schools do respect customs but a large number of them do not respect the culture, our dress, or traditions," Mr Al Shamsi said.
"Many do not wear respectful clothes and I see this with my eyes. I take my children to school every day and see this myself."