x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

To help students, first you teach the teachers

This autumn the first batch of students will begin a new two-year master's in education at the American University in Dubai.

This autumn the first batch of students will begin a new two-year master's in education at the American University in Dubai.

Dr Jihad Nader, the university's provost, said the time was right to introduce the course.

"With such rapid growth in education, we envisage that in the next 10 years, the UAE will feel the need to educate teachers at all levels, providing educators with formal training in how to be more effective in the field," he said.

Dr Cindy Gunn, the director of staff development at the American University of Sharjah (AUS), said the courses showed a commitment to making schools less dependent on expatriates.

Dr Gunn, who previously taught in countries including Turkey and Thailand, said each country has its own cultural context.

"Teaching in the Middle East has its own challenges, requiring a different teaching methodology and discipline in the classroom."

She hopes the courses will help address the lack of male Emirati teachers. Fewer than 10 per cent of the country's male teachers are Emirati, and there is little immediate hope for improvement. AUS's master's course in teaching English as a second language, for example, has no male students.

However, teacher training colleges cannot make the difference on their own. The problem - repeatedly identified by studies and echoed by Dr Nader - is the easy availability to men of better-paid jobs in areas such as the police or government.

"I don't think an institution offering one programme can address that need," he said. "It might help but it's a social issue." He admitted that most interest for the course has come from expatriates.

At United Arab Emirates University in Al Ain, 56 students, mainly Emirati, are conducting research for their master's degrees in education, with the first eight graduates due to receive diplomas in September.

The federal university is finalising a two-year master's in teaching practice, which it hopes will be approved by the autumn. Only three of those students are Emirati men, alongside 40 Emirati women, with the rest made up of expatriates. The course has been designed primarily for high-achieving Emirati graduates with degrees in subjects such as science and maths who wish to teach at high school level or above.

The university's provost, Prof Rory Hume, said he believed it would be "a very strong contributor to the future of education at all levels throughout the UAE".

UAE University will seek scholarship support and guarantees of employment from education authorities, universities and colleges at federal and emirate level.

mswan@thenational.ae

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