x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Back to school for 152 Abu Dhabi teachers

Emirati teachers from Cycle One schools (Grades 1 to 5) in Abu Dhabi will take a 12-month sabbatical to earn a postgraduate diploma at Zayed University and Higher Colleges of Technology.

Pupils at Al Ruwais Primary Boys School line up for an Arabic class.
Pupils at Al Ruwais Primary Boys School line up for an Arabic class.

ABU DHABI // State-school teachers are being sent back to university for a year to improve their classroom skills.

The 152 Emirati teachers from Cycle One schools (Grades 1 to 5) in Abu Dhabi will take a 12-month sabbatical to earn a postgraduate diploma at Zayed University and Higher Colleges of Technology.

"Learning is a lifelong process," Dr Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili, director general of Adec, the Abu Dhabi Education Council, said yesterday. "It cannot end in a day or an hour or a year, but has to be continuous."

The new course will concentrate on early childhood education, said Dr Robin Dada, the interim dean of education at ZU who helped to develop it. It will improve skills in "the teaching of reading and writing, and the integration of literacy and numeracy, science and maths content appropriate at these levels", she said.

Aysha Al Salami Al Neyadi, a school cluster manager for Adec in Al Ain, said sending teachers back to university was a necessary step. "I am all for retraining," said Ms Neyadi, who has been teaching and managing for eight years. "Because I know we have to keep learning to keep up with modern ways of teaching."

The diploma sabbatical is just one part of Adec's professional development programme for more than 6,000 teachers in Abu Dhabi's state schools.

The council said it would offer training in English proficiency, information and communication technology, pupil engagement, strategies for positive behaviour and multiple learning styles, and special-needs education and assessment.

Teachers will receive two hours of personal training every week and three to four hours in group workshops every month.

"We are working with the local and many international universities to assist us in improving the capabilities of our teachers," said Dr Al Khaili.

Adec has signed agreements with Vanderbilt University, the University of Florida and EduCluster from Finland to provide training. It has also signed deals with private education consultants such as Gems, CfBT education trust, Nord Anglia and Specialist Schools and Academies Trust.

Adec also announced yesterday that all teachers will be expected to pass the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam.

The test will be given to teachers in state schools once every two years. To continue working in an Adec school, science and mathematics teachers will have to score a minimum of 5.5 out of 9 and English teachers 6.5 out of 9.

Dr Robert Thompson, education adviser to Adec's director general, said the council would offer preparation courses to help the teachers to upgrade their English-language skills.

"We cannot expect a teacher with a low IELTS score to achieve our minimum in a short period," he said.

Ms Al Neyadi agreed teachers should prove their English proficiency to teach but had doubts the IELTS score was the best measurement.

"It is a standardised test and does not prove you are a good teacher," she said. "Sometimes native speakers also have trouble communicating. That is why the one-year certificate programme will be more beneficial."

Dr Thompson said the development programmes would be tailored to teachers' needs.

"The professional development will take place at different levels," he said. "At the system level, we will orient teachers to the new school model. On the school level, the school will work on its own improvement plan. On the individual level, it works on the specific area a teacher wants to improve."

There will be professional development programmes for principals and administrators, too. Dr Thompson said 926 school leaders would receive at least 18 hours of training a year.

"Like athletes who train to reach the highest standards, principals and teachers must also dedicate themselves to continuous professional development," said Dr Al Khaili. "They need to be lifelong learners."

aahmed@thenational.ae