Without Arabic classes, pupils may be turned away from UAE universities, officials say.
Warning for pupils over dropping out of Arabic
ABU DHABI // Pupils who opt out of Arabic will not have their high school certificates attested by the education authority, officials have warned.
Many students who chose not to take Arabic classes in Grades 10, 11, 12 and 13 are finding it hard to get into universities because they have not completed the examinations needed to receive an equivalency certificate from the Ministry of Education.
The certificate is required for entry into accredited universities and for some jobs.
Arabic classes are compulsory until Grade 9 in all schools. Thereafter they are optional for students learning it as a second language.
If pupils want a high school equivalency certificate from the ministry they need to show their Arabic marks, said Rasha Saeed, a standards specialist in the licensing and accreditation department of the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec).
"The problem was that schools were not making parents aware of its necessity and so many were just opting out of it," said Ms Saeed.
Pupils at international schools may decide to study abroad, where not all universities require local accreditation.
"But if the student decides to come back and study at a university here or even apply for a job, they need your attested high school certificates," said Ms Saeed.
Some school principals said they had no idea universities were not accepting students without Arabic grades.
Fiona Cottam, the principal of Jumeirah College in Dubai, which follows the English national curriculum, said the school offered the subject to high school pupils but it had always been optional for those who did not speak it as a first language.
"The problem is we didn't know this is a requirement at local universities," said Ms Cottam. "But now we are making parents aware of the ministry guidelines."
Ali Mehad al Suwaidi, the director general of the ministry, said the authority did not force schools to offer Arabic but "even if one student wants to study it, they have to provide the programme".
Adec has had to intervene in cases where pupils were denied the certificate because they had not taken compulsory Arabic examinations.
"We had to intervene because it wasn't the students' fault and they couldn't be penalised," said Ms Saeed. "Now, with Adec's school inspections, we are ensuring that all schools comply with the ministry's guidelines."
Non-Arabic speaking pupils have to attend two Arabic classes a week and sit a Grade 12 Arabic examination developed by the authority.
It is corrected at the school level, monitored by the authority, and sent with the final mark sheet for attestation.
Umm Hani Nusri said her daughter, who graduated a few years ago, was facing hurdles getting into university because of unattested certificates.
"We did not know then that it was compulsory and now the college refuses to acknowledge the documents," Mrs Nusri said.
Her daughter, Naamah, has applied to the Emirates Aviation College for a Master's programme but will not receive a local degree because she did not take Arabic in high school.
"She will get a degree accredited from a campus overseas but some jobs need a local accreditation," Mrs Nusri said. "They will not give her one unless she can provide her Arabic grades from school."
She has applied to the ministry so her daughter can take the high school tests this year.
"She wants to work here so she will have to do this," Mrs Nusri said.
Ms Saeed said parents could sign an official form stating they would not be seeking an equivalency certificate if they wanted their children to be exempted from Arabic after Grade 9.