x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Lack of evaluation leaves UAE pupils lagging, says FNC member

FNC member Aisha Al Yammahi questions the ministry's decision to stop evaluation of teachers' performances.

Fujairah FNC member Aisha Al Yammahi, also a school principal, makes her point on the need for teachers to be properly evaluated to the Minister for Education in yesterday’s council session. Silvia Razgova / The National
Fujairah FNC member Aisha Al Yammahi, also a school principal, makes her point on the need for teachers to be properly evaluated to the Minister for Education in yesterday’s council session. Silvia Razgova / The National

ABU DHABI // Children are falling behind in school because teachers are not properly supervised, an FNC member told the Minister of Education yesterday.

Aisha Al Yammahi (Fujairah) debated with the minister, Humaid Al Qattami, on the ministry's decision last year to stop evaluation of teachers' performances.

With no one watching over them, teachers were slacking and pupils' grades were falling, said Ms Al Yammahi, who is also a school principal.

The minister said evaluations had merely been put on hold while a new teacher licensing department, which will take over the task, was established.

"These will be for new and old teachers," Mr Al Qattami said. "We were waiting for the department to start this."

Ms Al Yammahi said the delay was damaging for pupils.

"Grades have deteriorated in subjects like physics and Islamic studies … because there is no proper training for the exams," she said.

"The teachers are not able to answer proper questions because there's no oversight. There is a need to reconsider this because the principal is not the right person to perform evaluations."

Ms Al Yammahi said principals could monitor teachers' administrative work but not ensure that what they were teaching was accurate.

"The new system is still being fixed," Mr Al Qattami said. "Soon it will begin licensing teachers. The issue overall will be clear by the start of the new year."

But his assertion that the current situation empowered principals brought further debate.

"Evaluating teachers, can a principal do this alone?" Ms Al Yammahi asked. "This role is difficult for principals", who also needed evaluation.

The minister said he would look into her proposals.

Another member, Ali Al Nuaimi (Ajman), asked Mr Al Qattami about a different kind of educational burden: that of heavy school bags on children's backs.

The minister stressed he was keen to reduce the size of bags as studies have shown they could affect pupil's health.

School timetables have already been changed to ensure pupils never need to bring an unmanageable number of books, he said.

"We are trying to lower the number of books children carry," Mr Al Qattami said. "We changed the paper and used one light in weight, without lowering quality. And this year we split the school year into three semesters to make books smaller."

Some classes also have lockers, he added, and electronic books could soon replace physical books, with 14 schools already using them.

Mr Al Nuaimi pointed out these changes only affected government schools, not private.

"A lot of our children are in private schools," he said.

Parents had complained to him that schools did not allow pupils to use wheeled bags for fear of their floors getting scratched.

"Is the ministry doing anything to stop schools from doing this?" Mr Al Nuaimi asked.

The minister said a new law governing private schools would soon be brought forward and would include specifications for school bags.

"Some private schools tell children to get particular bags with certain specifications. This issue will be looked at seriously," he said.

osalem@thenational.ae