x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

English boost for nurseries

Children as young as four will be taught English at state-run nursery schools as part of sweeping reforms to the UAE educational system.

ABU DHABI // Children as young as four will be taught English at state-run nursery schools as part of sweeping reforms to the UAE educational system. The changes are part of a wide-ranging plan to boost English language skills across all tiers of the school system, from preschool, which starts with children aged four, to secondary students, the Ministry of Education announced yesterday.

An unspecified number of nursery schools will begin a pilot study before the scheme is rolled out across the country, reported WAM, the government news agency. The Ministry did not specify details. "The plan to introduce English language to preschool children is a response to the fact that English is the language of our age and it is a major element in any educational system," said a Ministry statement. "The scheme aims to take advantage of the fact that children of that age acquire language skills very easily."

Parents are also keen for their children to learn the language and appreciate it is an important part of their children's success, added the Ministry. Education officials have long been looking at how to tackle the problem of introducing English into the nation's classrooms. Classes in state primary and secondary schools are taught in Arabic, but university students are taught in English. Many students are forced to take a remedial year before starting university to acquire a command of English.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that only 1,746 university applicants, or 11 per cent, achieved a Common Educational Proficiency Assessment English test score of 180 or more, the level needed to start a degree or diploma course. To improve on these figures, it was also announced yesterday that Zayed University will offer additional language support for 18-year-olds finishing secondary school. This will start immediately and end in May next year.

A four-year initiative in which all students at high schools will be targeted for English language help is also due to start this year. The scheme will also offer support to teachers working in state schools to achieve the educational goals. * The National