x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Struggle to educate Arab expatriate students

Children are unable to attend Indian schools that have failed to comply with curriculum requirements.

RAS AL KHAIMAH // The emirate's education zone has banned new Arab expatriate students from enrolling at Indian private schools that have failed to comply with curriculum requirements.

The schools must offer Arab students seven hours of Arabic, four hours of Islamic studies and one hour of social studies, all taught by a specialist. Just two of the seven Indian schools in RAK accept Arab pupils, who make up about 40 per cent of the student body.

Indian private schools are popular because of their English standards and affordable fees, in relation to British curriculum schools. Some Arab parents worry that they are being left to fend for themselves in a system that seems to discourage Arab expatriate enrolment at government and private schools.

"Many of our children are suffering," said Fatima Mohamed, a 32-year-old mother of four whose husband and children are Omani. "I feel they are somehow deserting these Arab students because when we take them to the government schools, they don't teach them English. Even if they give them the syllabus, they don't reach these goals."

It has become more difficult for Arab students to go to government schools, where they must attend afternoon classes instead of morning classes. No more than 20 per cent of the student body can consist of expatriates. That amount can be lessened if a school feels it has insufficient facilities to meet their needs.

"At a certain period some of the public schools said they could not accept the Arab students, so they tried to make an arrangement with the Indian schools," said Salem Saif al Jaber, the education zone's head of private education. "The [Indian] schools followed the procedures, but only for a short time. They cannot marry two different styles of teaching. The number of teachers who meet this criteria are too low."

The options shrink further when fees are factored in. KG1 and grade 12 tuition at the New Indian School Ras al Khaimah are Dh1,800 and Dh3,600 per year. The KG1 fee at the International School of Choueifat is Dh15,000, while year 11 tuition at the Ras al Khaimah English Speaking School is Dh28,650.

Many Arab expatriates cannot afford such fees, said Ms Mohamed, a Kenyan. She visited an Arab private school recommended by the education zone but the English teacher spoke such poor English that he needed a translator, she said.

The problem is compounded by the extra courses that Arab expatriates must take in Indian schools. Officials said it was difficult for pupils to complete the 42-hour workload of the regular curriculum and the additional requirements.

"We cannot do justice to both at the same time," said Habib Mundul, the chairman of Scholars Indian School, which stopped enrolling Arab students in 2008. "I wanted diversity in this school because both the international atmosphere will benefit the Asian and Arab students, but practically it was the other way round. Both were losing."

azacharias@thenational.ae