Advanced curriculum for high-achieving UAE pupils

Under the new system, extra classes would also be offered.

ABU DHABI // The Minister of Education has revealed plans to provide gifted pupils with a more advanced curriculum.

Hussein Al Hammadi’s plans for high-achieving pupils also included a federal law to support them through their education.

“The ministry has been studying this,” Mr Al Hammadi told the FNC. “There will be special classes for them from Grade 8 and they will be given an advanced curriculum.” He said they would also be given extra classes.

FNC member Ali Al Nuaimi, from Ajman, asked Mr Al Hammadi whether extra classes could lead to a decline in pupils’ grades. But Rema Menon, an education consultant, said gifted pupils would thrive on extra classes and an advanced curriculum.

“Definitely this would be a good move for students who are strong academic achievers and who are gifted,” said Mrs Menon, who was not at the FNC session.

“Somebody who is comprehending better and can finish the work much faster than the rest may feel complacent, or bored, or lack direction.

“So if that student is challenged more to think, it would definitely give them more opportunities to display his or her capabilities and potential.” But Mrs Menon warned about rushing into the changes.

“My concern is that the teachers should also be given the tools to be able to do that,” she said.

Sonia ben Jaafar, managing director of EduEval, a consultancy in Dubai, gave a cautious welcome to the proposals.

“I would have to know more about the plans, but in general talented Emirati students already have opportunities,” Ms ben Jaafar said.

“They can apply to summer camps and get to learn extra, and if they are really bright there are various scholarship programmes they can take advantage of.”

Mr Al Nuaimi suggested that the ministry study a possible system allowing pupils to skip school grades if they were sufficiently advanced.

“In terms of skipping a grade or two I’m not sure that is the ideal thing to do,” said Ms ben Jaafar.

She said the difference in ages adds social pressures to gifted younger pupils in settling into a new classroom.

“You are never going to get 30 children in a classroom all at the same level,” Ms ben Jaafar said. “Education in general is moving towards a more tailored approach where teachers provide more challenging material to brighter students.

“It should be about pitching the teaching to the level of the student so that children of all levels can progress.”

Mr Al Nuami agreed that pupils needed clear career guidance to ensure they studied in fields to fulfil the country’s workforce needs, “so that they can be one of our great thinkers or scientists”.

He asked if the ministry had any plans to support Emiratis in private schools, particularly because nearly half of all national pupils studied in them. While public schools were closely monitored, he said private schools were not.

The minister said his agency’s direction was to unify supervisory methods for private and public schools with a new federal law.

“This is going to happen with the law on private schools,” Mr Al Hammadi said. “A new law will also support gifted pupils and high achievers.

“This is being studied and will come to the FNC soon – this and the private schools law.”

Mr Al Nuaimi also quizzed the minister on possible financial abuse from international English language testing centres.

He said they could be benefiting from pupils who had to repeat examinations and pay sums of more than Dh600 for each test.

The minister said the UAE would soon replace foreign English exams with local ones.* Additional reporting by Roberta Pennington and Nadeem Hanif

osalem@thenational.ae

Published: December 9, 2014 04:00 AM

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