DUBAI // Schools must change the way they teach Arabic if students are to persevere with the language, experts say.
A more interactive teaching approach and more modern textbooks would help keep the interest of Emirati students, says a report by international researchers commissioned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai.
Young nationals are increasingly moving away from their mother tongue and relying on English, the report found.
Complicated grammar and heavy historical texts were being introduced too early in a child’s development and provided the two biggest hurdles to students, the report warned.
But the panel of experts behind the report concluded the language was still very much alive and that modernising the government curriculum to make it more relevant to children’s everyday experiences could address the problems.
“Arabic language teaching in school is based on the concept of an inverted pyramid,” wrote Farouk Shousha, secretary general of the Arabic Language Academy, in the report.
“It starts from the far past and progresses to the modern day.”
Teaching the language in chronological order deterred children, the report found, as it meant their early learning materials included historical texts and pre-Islamic poetry.
The researchers suggested more easily understood non-literature texts in the early stages of a child’s development, and introducing more complicated texts when the child had a better grasp of the language.
Methods of teaching grammar must also be simplified, said the report. About two-thirds of Arab students and teachers in the UAE complained about grammar.
Manal Abu Eisa, who has been teaching Arabic for 18 years, said the government curriculum was not relevant enough to the lives of her students.
“A lot of the information provided in the textbooks is useless and outdated,” Mrs Abu Eisa said.
She teaches students from Year 1 to Year 3 in a British school that follows the ministry curriculum in Arabic and said a better approach was taken to other subjects at her school.
“There is much more interactive approach in the other subjects which is supported by the teaching material available,” Mrs Abu Eisa said.
She said this was changing and more interactive and fun methods had been developed for Year 1 pupils.
“However, the problem still very much exists for the other grades, in which learning is made unnecessarily difficult,” she said.
Other educators said teachers also needed to learn how to make lessons relevant to their students.
“The word curriculum does not mean books only,” said Samia Al Farra, chief education officer at UAE’s second-largest operator, Taaleem.
“It includes all other activities that happen under the auspices of the school. It encompasses the competencies and how they are achieved, the pedagogy used, other resources, the concepts, the skills, the content and much more.
“The new curriculum should be meaningful and relevant to the learner. It should be differentiated to cater for the range of abilities, interests and talents. It should employ technology and multisensory approaches to teaching and learning.
“It must be colourful, artistic, happy and cool. The onus lies on the Arabic teacher to make it meaningful and relevant to the learner.”
Last week, The National reported many parents were unhappy with Arabic teaching at private schools across the country, with some calling it “a disaster”.