x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Bell rings as UAE schools re-open for new term

School halls are filled with chatter and laughter again as students in the UAE return to school after the winter holidays.

Students of Al Ameen School in Abu Dhabi gather for a school assembly after returning from the winter break.
Students of Al Ameen School in Abu Dhabi gather for a school assembly after returning from the winter break.

ABU DHABI // The corridors of Al Ameen School in Abu Dhabi were filled with the excited chattering of reunited friends as pupils returned to their classrooms for the start of the second term yesterday.

Across the country, about 727,918 pupils at more than 1,276 government and private schools went back to class.

In the capital, schools operated by the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) got into the swing of academics with play-based activities for young pupils and revision lessons for high schoolers.

At Al Ameen, one of two Adec schools that follow the Finnish model of teaching, teachers prepared to undergo more training sessions in interactive learning.

Harri Pekka Jokinen, principal of the school that educates 250 pupils said most of their students had returned on the first day.

“Students are happy to come to the school every day,” Mr Jokinen said.

“The environment is meaningful for them and this is the first step where you start to build education.”

The Finnish method of instruction is being taught as part of an agreement between the council and education consultants, EduCluster Finland.

The five-year project, which began in 2010, seeks to develop a new local model tailored on international practices applied by Finland – one of the top ranking countries in education.

As part of the programme, Emirati and Arab expatriate staff are supported by teachers from Finland to create a child-centred environment that uses technology and practical courses to raise the level of English language skills of pupils.

Teachers are also trained in “differential instruction methods” (using different teaching methods at the same time to meet different students’ needs), which will allow them to better integrate pupils with special education needs.

“Early intervention in special needs education is characteristic for the Finnish system,” explained Juha Repo, head of faculty at the school. “We try to deal with the challenges through multi-professional teams as early as possible.”

Mr Jokinen said there was a lot in store for the school, staff and pupils this year. “We [want to] promote cooperation with families.”

The school will also be initiating the pupil self awareness and environment lessons to heighten their knowledge about their surroundings.

The Finnish model schools are not the only ones expected to be kept busy with new learning initiatives.

This year, Adec plans to increase the number of skill-enhancing workshops for teachers. And in the Madaras Al Ghad (Mag) schools, run by the Ministry of Education, Cycle 3 (Grade 10-12) pupils will be prepared for the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) tests and the Common Educational Proficiency Assessment (Cepa) – an entry requirement for federal universities.

Ghassan K Hijazi, academic programme coordinator for Mag schools, said they were implementing an online practice programme for the pupils.

“We expect at least 25 per cent of high-school pupils in Mag schools to take their IELTS this year,” said Mr Hijazi. They also expect the number of pupils who score more than 180 points in Cepa (required to enter a federal university) to go up from 10 per cent to 13 per cent this year. The tests in English and mathematics will take place in March.

“We have plans to guide the pupils on how to write the exams and make them more independent learners through online worksheets and tests.”

Private schools also got back into the swing of things yesterday, with Adec reporting the return of 198,000 pupils to 185 private schools in the capital.

IIyas Jumat Nasari, headmaster of the Model Private School, said they had to start revision lessons and extra classes for the pupils appearing for their board exams this year.

“From this evening, we will be offering extra coaching for pupils who are weak in certain subjects,” Mr Nasari said. More than 100 Grade 12 pupils will be appearing for their Indian board exams from the school.

“It’s a busy period for our school and a crucial one for the high school children,” said Mr Nasari.

aahmed@thenational.ae