Sharjah Ruler caps class sizes at private schools to 25 pupils
Directive also limits teachers to no more than 24 lessons per week
Class sizes at private schools in Sharjah will be capped at 25 pupils and teachers told not to take more than 24 lessons per week as part of efforts to improve education standards in the emirate.
Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah, issued the directive to the Sharjah Private Education Authority during a radio broadcast on Tuesday.
The announcement - which comes a few days into the new school year - won the support of some school leaders in the emirate.
One headteacher, however, said there would be additional expenses for schools that need to set up new classrooms in line with the directive.
Anthony Joseph, principal of Sharjah Indian School, said limiting class sizes would allow teachers to devote more attention to pupils.
The boys' school has about 5,000 pupils and an average class size of 30.
“This [the directive] will bring an order into the set-up of the school and limiting the class size to 25 will definitely enhance the quality of education," Mr Joseph said.
“We will have to create more classes and if the Ruler is trying to improve the quality of education in Sharjah, we have to obey his order."
The decision to limit teachers to 24 lessons per week would help make working hours more uniform, he said.
Keith Sykes, headteacher of Victoria English School, also supported the directive.
“Having between 25 to a maximum of 27 pupils, is part of the school’s policy to ensure that children receive a fantastic education," said Mr Sykes.
However, a principal at a school in Sharjah, who wished to remain anonymous, said that adding new classrooms would lead to higher utility bills.
Yaqoob Al Hammadi, an academic and vocational adviser at Taryam Omran Secondary School, said some private schools had between 30 to 35 pupils in a classroom, with teachers finding it difficult to control the class.
“I have witnessed this problem, where teachers were forced by school’s administrations - mainly for profit - to work under such conditions,” said Mr Al Hammadi.
“This decision benefits pupils, teachers and parents as it will provide a healthier learning environment with more focus on pupils' educational and social needs.
“Having an extra five or 10 pupils meant extra effort on a teacher's part in planning, teaching, checking and marking."
Mr Al Hammadi said he hoped other emirates would follow suit.
Alison Rego, 37, an Indian parent in Sharjah, said her child’s school capped the number of pupils at 20 per class.
“Around 20 to 25 is a good number but when schools limit the number of pupils in a class, schools charge more fees," said Ms Rego.
"Smaller classes will mean children are getting more attention and this is important especially in the foundation years."
If a class has only 20 pupils, the teacher has time to communicate with all parents as well, she said.
Keeping to smaller class sizes is a policy already in place at one school in Dubai.
Graham Beale, founding principal at Arcadia School, said the school restricts the number of pupils to 25 in a class.
Mr Beale said parents prefer smaller class sizes because they believe their children will get more attention.
It is not the first time the Sharjah Ruler has sought to improve the emirate's education system.
Last year, 47 private schools in the northern emirates were banned from accepting Emirati pupils after they were rated "weak" or "very weak" by the UAE's Ministry of Education.
At the time, Sheikh Dr Sultan reassured schools that did not perform well that they would receive the support they needed to improve.
Last July, he said that a committee of international experts would be set up to reform Sharjah's private schools.
It has not been revealed when the classroom cap will be brought into force and how it will be enforced.
Updated: September 11, 2019 07:19 PM