x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

English is a key subject at summer school

Parents want children to focus on improving their English skills while attending summer schools in capital.

Saeed Al Ghaithi is one of the coordinators for the Skills4Life Summer Programme.
Saeed Al Ghaithi is one of the coordinators for the Skills4Life Summer Programme.

Emirati parents want children to focus on improving their English during summer school, educational institutions said yesterday.

The second annual Skills4Life Summer Programme, to be held next month, offers Emirati children in grades 6 to 12 the chance to explore career options.

The subjects include robotics, photography, aviation, nursing and web design.

The three-week programme, from July 1 to 19, is organised by the Abu Dhabi Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training, and will be held in 18 institutes around the country - except Dubai.

Abdul Rahman Al Hammadi, the head of the steering committee, said the biggest requirement from parents after last year's programme, in which about 1,000 students took part, was for their children to improve their English.

"We got so many emails about that, so this year we are really concentrating on integrating English into the schedule," he said.

Mr Al Hammadi added it was important that the "kids don't get bored", which is why the course is heavily focused on fun activities, games and teamwork.

It also gives the students a chance to make new friends outside of their comfort zone.

But Adel Al Ameri, the director of the Al Jazirah Institute, said it was difficult to keep the students interested throughout the full-time course.

"The challenging aspect is to keep them coming back the next day," he said.

Mr Al Ameri said 124 students signed up for courses at his institution last year, but only an average of 60 students came each day, which he said is "disruptive" to the structure of the classes.

"Last year we found that the only way to encourage them to come the next day is through documenting what they learned," he said.

He said the students had to write notes at the end of each day about what they had experienced in class to "feel attached to it".

The hot summer weather and transport problems were some of the reasons youngsters did not show, he said. However, the biggest issue was family committments, such as vacations.

"We need to really engage them to make them want to come," he said, adding that if the students feel like they are part of a group they "feel compelled to come back".

The vocation centre's goal is to increase the number of skilled Emirati youth in the employment sector and create a labour market driven by a local workforce.

Saeed Al Ghaithi, one of the coordinators, said it will make the students "think, work together, make new friends, share ideas and go out of their normal routine".

However, he also said it might be difficult to make people show up.

"We will face some challenges, especially during the summer, as some parents do not allow their daughters to travel away. We can't predict the future but we can plan."

molson@thenational.ae