x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Sweeping changes for Grade 6 pupils in Abu Dhabi state schools

Children will be taught critical thinking skills with particular emphasis on science.

ABU DHABI // Details of a new curriculum for Abu Dhabi’s Grade 6 state school pupils have been revealed by the education council.

Developing critical thinking will be a key aim of the new school model (NSM) when it is introduced at 102 Cycle 2 schools in September, and English, Arabic, maths and science will become the core subjects.

“To serve our 2030 vision and to serve our economy we need to concentrate on the science track in education,” said Dr Mugheer Al Khaili, director general of the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec).

“If we give enough activities and enough classes in the science discipline we might get people interested in these topics that serve our economy.”

Details of the roll-out of NSM to pupils aged 11 and 12 were announced at a meeting of 265 government school principals from Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and the Western Region yesterday.

Adec introduced the model in August 2010 and it has already been implemented up to Grade 5, meaning most pupils entering Grade 6 in September will already be familiar with the curriculum and teaching style. The core subjects will each be taught six times a week in 45-minute classes.

There are two more science classes a week than before, and one Arabic-language class has been substituted with a new course in social studies, which is instructed in Arabic.

“As for the Arabic language, as you know, this is part of our identity and our culture, and this is a major requirement to preserve our identity, our religion and our culture,” said Dr Al Khaili.

“We can never ignore it or do anything to jeopardise its position.”

Physical education has been renamed health education to reflect a new focus on nutrition. Music will remain at one period a week.

Information and computer technology (ICT) classes will be dissolved and their teachers will instead work alongside instructors as e-Learning educators to develop an approach to lesson plans that integrates technology.

“The teacher will be a facilitator of technology in schools, so his or her new role will support the development of IT and its implementation in the other subjects,” said Dr Karima Al Mazroui, an Adec curriculum division manager.

There are 6,479 Emirati teachers in Abu Dhabi public schools. Adec said a “high number” would need to be retrained to teach maths and science in English, although they would not give an exact number.

“The role of the teacher will be modified but they will be there and they are needed to carry out the new system that we will implement soon,” said Dr Al Khaili.

To bridge the gap during roll-out, teachers will be recruited internally, externally and from abroad while Emirati teachers undergo professional development before they re-enter the system.

Dr Al Khaili said no Emirati teachers would lose their positions during the roll-out.

“The concepts of national identity have to be integrated in our curriculum,” he said. “The main thing is to have nationals as teachers in our classrooms because they are the right people to spread our culture and our identity.”

NSM will also teach children the importance of independent, critical thinking and analytical research skills. Adec believes doing away with traditional teaching methods will better prepare students to become part of Abu Dhabi’s knowledge-based economy.

“We did some benchmarking with other developed countries and we found out that we have less than the international standard in science so it’s been enriched to concentrate on the topics that are related to jobs related to science,” said Dr Al Mazroui.

Dr Al Khaili said: “The science track is very important in how we should achieve those goals to achieve a knowledge-based economy. What we had can no longer serve this.”

azacharias@thenational.ae