x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Fifth of Sharjah's English teachers need more training

College to train 110 high school teachers in modern methods to reduce the need for students to take a foundation year ahead of university.

Alan Lanes, of Sharjah Women's College, leads an English writing workshop for public school teachers at the Sharjah Men's College.
Alan Lanes, of Sharjah Women's College, leads an English writing workshop for public school teachers at the Sharjah Men's College.

SHARJAH // Around 20 per cent of English language teachers in the emirate's public schools require further training, a study has found. 

The research was carried out between May and June as part of the Unesco Chair programme overseeing the Applied Research in Education at Sharjah Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT).

"A number of teachers have acquired their Bachelors of Arts and Science degrees but have never been trained to teach," said Dr Christina Gitsaki, who heads the programme at HCT. 

The survey, carried out among 98 teachers, also revealed that 37 per cent had attended less than four Professional Development (PD) sessions. About 5 per cent said they had no interest in such sessions, and did not consider them relevant.

Limited teacher training is believed to be a reason for poor English language skills among high school graduates: 90 per cent of students require an extra year of foundation training before they can enter university. Dr Gitsaki said there was a huge gap to fill, which would require immediate reforms. "The only way to end the foundation programme is by retooling the schoolteachers." 

To do this, the college has signed an agreement with the Sharjah Education Zone to train 110 high school teachers in modern methods. The two-hour workshops will take place every second week for a year, and will be conducted by professors at HCT.

Yesterday, at the first of these sessions, public school teachers became the students. They worked in groups, taking notes on how to plan lessons, boost reading and writing skills, and personalise learning for students. Lessons taught in the workshop must be implemented in the classroom and the ministry will conduct field visits to monitor the progress made by the teachers. "Students' disinterest in the English language class could be the outcome of traditional teaching methods," said Dr Gitsaki.

Maghoury Mohammad, of Al Shahbaa School in Sharjah, was quizzed during the workshop on the difference between "warmers", "icebreakers", and "lead-ins" - all concepts used to introduce topics to students. He said these were new to him but that he may start to use them. "Creating interest is a huge problem among the boys," he said. "I will try starting with something funny or an experience to gain their attention."

Dr Gitsaki said: "[Teachers] feel that they need to teach from the textbook because the students will be assessed from there. So we are trying to look at how the textbook material can be made exciting through games and activities that will keep the students hooked."  Ahmed Bourini, the Ministry of Education's educational supervisor and PD programme coordinator in Sharjah, said an emphasis would be placed on training high school teachers who had received few opportunities for professional development. "This has sometimes influenced their performance and ability to keep up with the latest developments in the field," he said.

Teacher training initiatives are in the pipeline in other emirates. The Continuing Education Centre set up by the Ajman University of Science and Technology has proposed a collaborative programme to the Ajman government, wherein 50 teachers would take professional courses. "We have approached the Ajman Teachers and Parents Council under the Ajman Government to subsidise the courses," said Edwin Michael Wyllie, the director of the centre.

aahmed@thenational.ae