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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Mandarin classes to begin at 10 public high schools this academic year

The Ministry of Education has hired 24 teachers and four education managers from China in a bid to boost pupils’ understanding of a language that is increasingly important both to business and international affairs

Minister of Education Hussain Al Hammadi said maintenance work had been completed in 24 public schools and 16 kindergarten centres ahead of the school year. Reem Mohammed / The National
Minister of Education Hussain Al Hammadi said maintenance work had been completed in 24 public schools and 16 kindergarten centres ahead of the school year. Reem Mohammed / The National

High school pupils at some state schools in Dubai and the Northern Emirates will have the choice of studying Mandarin when classes resume next month.

The Ministry of Education has hired 24 teachers and four education managers from China to lead a new pilot programme across 10 public high schools this academic year. The elective will be open to students from Grade 10, though which schools are involved were not revealed.

“China is growing into one of the largest economies in the world and, throughout our strategic relationships with them, we have seen their technology evolve in terms of research and development,” said Marwan Al Sawaleh, assistant undersecretary at the MoE. “Their overall education system and policies are really expanding and becoming strong, and we are trying to open this opportunity for our high school graduates.”

The new language class is one of a number of new initiatives announced by Minister of Education Hussain Al Hammadi and Minister of State for Public Education Jameela Al Muhairi on Tuesday in advance of the new academic year, which will begin on September 4 for teachers and September 10 for pupils.

Mr Al Hammadi said maintenance work had been completed in 24 public schools and 16 kindergarten centres this summer to prepare the buildings for the pupils’ return. The Ministry of Infrastructure Development is also working with the MoE to upgrade facilities at 27 more state schools.

The minister said the MoE built or upgraded 40 learning resource centres and will distribute 29,000 laptops and tablets among students and teachers and equip computer labs for grades four, five, seven and eight with 13,800 computers.

“Every three to five years, you have to bring in new software and hardware,” said Mr Al Sawaleh.

But this year the computer equipment is especially critical as most exams from grades six through to 12 will be written electronically to provide the ministry with better and more data on students’ strengths and weaknesses.

For the first time this year, school principals will be in direct control of their textbook inventory as the ministry launched a new ordering system to facilitate and expedite shipping, so that schools order directly from the printer when they require more stock.

“It’s electronic, online; now the schools apply as per the number of students and the cycle and this request goes to the printing company itself and then they deliver it from the printing plant to the school,” said Mr Al Sawaleh.

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The move is in response to distribution problems last year that led to the late delivery of textbooks. Officials say they have also addressed the issue of culturally insensitive or inaccurate content that had been published in the new textbooks.

“We have been working with different committees to look at the content, to look at the pictures, to modify according to our culture,” said Minister Al Muhairi. “We have been working with different people across the UAE to review our textbooks when it comes to cultural sensitivities and making sure that the language is proper.”

The MoE said it has hired 1,567 new teachers since January. Officials noted the number was higher than in the past because of the new curriculum, which was introduced last year, changed the language of instruction from Arabic to English for subjects including science, maths and health for middle and high school students in the advanced or “elite” stream.

The ministry also recently added new subjects including life skills, health science, business and entrepreneurship, technology and entrepreneurship and creative design and thinking for high school pupils, all taught by native English speakers. Following its successful pilot launch last year, the new moral education subject will roll out across public and private schools to teach students ethics, tolerance and civic education. Social studies has also been revamped for public school pupils beginning this year, said Mr Al Sawaleh.

Those in grades 10 to 12 will be required to take physics as one of their science subjects.

“For grade 10, they will study physics and science, and for grade 11, they will study physics and chemistry,” said Mr Al Sawaleh. “For grade 12, they will study physics and they can choose between chemistry or science. This is the beginning. We are working on developing more electives in the coming years in science and even the other subjects. What we want to say is that it is continuing, it is developing each year.”

Inspections of public schools, which only began in Dubai and the Northern Emirates for the first time in April with 162 schools, will continue this year. The MoE school inspections are being led by the Tribal Group, which was awarded a 12-month contract worth Dh16.6 million in April. Last week, the group announced it will be the exclusive inspector for Abu Dhabi Education Council after it was awarded a two-year Dh40.3m contract to review both public and private schools in the emirate.

Plans are also under way to expand the MoE inspections to private schools in the Northern Emirates.

“We finished 50 per cent [of the public school inspections] last [academic] year and this year we will continue and introduce it to the private schools also in the Northern Emirates,” said Mr Al Sawaleh.

Ministry of Education academic calendar

Teachers and staff return to schools for professional training on Monday, September 4. Pupils go back to school on Sunday, September 10. The winter break will start on December 17 for staff and students. Staff will return two weeks later, on January 2, for professional training. Students have four weeks off during the winter and won’t have to be back until January 14. The spring break will begin on March 25, with staff returning on April 1 and pupils on April 8. The academic year will end on July 5 for pupils and July 12 for teachers and staff.