x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Parents brand Arabic teaching in UAE private schools a 'disaster'

Um Omar, an Emirati mother of five, pays about Dh300,000 in tuition fees a year and is unhappy her children have not been taught the skills to master the language.

As children start the new academic year across schools in the UAE, parents express concern at the standard of Arabic teaching. Delores Johnson / The National
As children start the new academic year across schools in the UAE, parents express concern at the standard of Arabic teaching. Delores Johnson / The National

DUBAI //Parents are calling for Arabic teaching to be improved in private schools and feel their language is being neglected.

Um Omar, an Emirati mother of five whose children go to a school that follows the International Baccalaureate curriculum, described their Arabic lessons as a "disaster".

"The Arabic should definitely be stronger than it is," she said.

Um Omar pays about Dh300,000 in tuition fees a year and is unhappy her children have not been taught the skills to master the language.

"I had to choose between a school which is good in Arabic or the overall quality of education. I chose the latter," she said. "Unfortunately there is no respectable school which can provide both."

Abir Mohammed, a Palestinian mother of girls in grade 2 and grade 8, said Arabic lessons at her children's school were insufficient.

"They only have one class of Arabic a day and this is not enough as they study everything else in English," she said.

The girls attend an American curriculum school so are not exposed to the language often.

"The increasing of the Arabic lessons coupled with better quality teaching would improve the situation," Mrs Mohammed said.

Yusra Al Hashmi, general manager of Iqra'a, a language centre that teaches Arabic, said several factors contributed to the poor quality of Arabic lessons at private schools, including unqualified teachers.

"Many schools do not pay Arabic much of their attention. They do not feel the need for that as they cater for non-Arabic students," she said. "They pay their Arabic teachers less than others and they often prefer to spend on other departments.

"Other factors which play a role is the lack of proactive teaching material which interests the children. This makes it difficult for teachers to teach the language in an interesting way."

Iqra'a offers Arabic classes for Arab children, mainly Emirati. It is an effort to raise the status of Arabic, but Mrs Al Hashmi said a comprehensive plan was necessary.

"The Ministry of Education and other concerned bodies should put greater emphasis on Arabic teaching and not leave it up to the schools to decide on how much resources they want to put on our native language," she said.

Suggested solutions include making sure regulators encourage better training of Arabic teachers.

Samia Al Farra, the chief education officer at Taaleem, the UAE's second-largest education operator, said the agenies should "encourage more Arabic training where schools can learn more from each other".

"Put the onus on the schools, encourage them to twin with other schools where they mutually benefit each other," Ms Al Farra said. "An example would be an Arab curriculum school twinning with an international school, where it would offer assistance in Arabic."

wissa@thenational.ae