x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Raft of reforms at Abu Dhabi schools to raise standards

Staff to take up more specialities and focus on skills for university and today's jobs market under reforms from the Abu Dhabi Education Council.

ABU DHABI // The emirate's education regulator yesterday unveiled a raft of school reforms to make higher education institutions more aware that teachers need to be properly equipped in the classroom.
"I think we all recognise there has been a disconnect between preparation programmes that are taking place and the needs that we have now in our Adec schools," said Dr Vincent Ferrandino, the executive director for Primary to Grade 12 at Adec, the Abu Dhabi Education Council.
"The skills sets, the competencies, the understanding and the abilities of our teachers are changing. The preparation of those teachers needs to correspond to the requirements in the classroom."
Adec met with representatives from eight universities in Abu Dhabi for an introduction to the changes in its New School Model (NSM), with an emphasis on curriculum, assessment, policies, special education and eLearning.
"Adec's vision is to encourage students to become lifelong learners who are proud of their culture and heritage," said Dr Mugheer Al Khaili, Adec's director general.
"The New School Model is a key element in fulfilling the vision of Abu Dhabi 2030 since it focuses on developing the student as a communicator, thinker and problem solver, all traits necessary for tomorrow's globally competitive market environment."
Adec, he said, would like to hire more Emirati teachers, and to see more teachers in general take up specialities such as music, art, sport and information technology.
"The qualifications of what Adec has for its teachers has changed significantly," Dr Ferrandino said. "We are requiring a higher set of competencies, capacity to work in a more active manner, to focus on the use of multiple resources for students, and the preparation programmes in the past had not focused on some of these areas."
Adec wants to ensure the preparation programmes will better help teachers serve pupils.
"The old way of preparing was effective for the old way of teaching," he said. "Now that we've changed qualifications of our teachers, there has been a change with how teachers prepare."
Dr Karima Al Mazroui, Adec's curriculum division manager, said the agency's P-12 policy and curriculum put greater emphasis on Arabic and English languages, mathematics, science, art, assessment, special education and learning.
NSM caters to the different learning styles of each pupil. It is essential that teachers were aware of the different types of learning activities and education reforms, she said.
Adec's NSM encourages child-centred learning, cultural engagement and applied knowledge. The model has already been implemented to Grade 5, but will apply to Grade 6 for the first time this year. Grade 6 core subjects - Arabic, English, maths and science - will now be taught in six lessons of 45 minutes each, every week.
Integrated social studies will be introduced as a new subject, and will include elements of history, geography, social studies, national education, economics, psychology, sociology and career guidance. Music will also be introduced to Grades 7, 8 and 9, while the information and communication technology will be integrated into all other subjects. Health will be added to physical education, and will be taught twice a week.
Adec needs more health and physical education teachers, as well as academic and career counsellors in its Cycle 2 schools.
More than 67,000 students are expected to graduate from high school by the time the reform is fully implemented. The current performance of school graduates is unsatisfactory, with 35 per cent unqualified for university and more than 87 per cent requiring bridge programmes, according to Adec.
One way of better preparing students is to focus on improving English language and maths skills, and help prepare them for universities' entrance exams.
Katrina Sinclair, the head of the education department at Al Ain's Women's College,  said: "It is important that we talk together so that we meet the workforce needs. And if we don't, we're basically producing teachers who are not fitting in to the needs and the demands of the 21st century teacher."