Education faces up to double challenge

Experts say many schoolteachers lack basic skills, while budget changes threaten jobs in universities as funds are diverted to research.

DUBAI - FEBRUARY 7,2010 - Ian Haslam gesture during Teachers forum at Dubai School of Goverment in Dubai. ( Paulo Vecina/The National )
Powered by automated translation

ABU DHABI // Education experts have warned that inadequate teaching standards in secondary schools and a university budget freeze that is putting jobs at risk are threatening the education system.

They said schools will not be able to improve until thousands of teachers upgrade their skills and qualifications, many of them dramatically. A proper licensing system for teachers also is necessary, they say. "We have an awful lot of teachers who don't have initial teacher training at all who are working in the system," said Dr Ian Haslam, the vice chancellor and chief executive of the Emirates Advanced College of Education in Abu Dhabi, speaking at a Dubai School of Government panel yesterday.

Research indicates that good teachers can be key to improving student performance, yet less than half of the country's teachers have university degrees in education, the panel said. On Saturday, the UAE National Historic Charter announced a series of goals, many of them in education, to be achieved by 2021, the 50th anniversary of the country's founding. Mohammed al Hammadi, a principal at Al Bayraq boys' public school in Al Ain, said most of his teachers needed formal training, many of them even in basic skills such as using the internet.

"We have everything, good buildings, good equipment, but we have no training," he said. "It would be like training a doctor for two days and putting him into a hospital." At the post-secondary level, UAE University announced that it may cut 200 staff positions to pay for its planned research goals, including the launch of a research centre. Also, Zayed University has delayed plans for a Centre for the Study of Bilingualism and Bilingual Education, as funds from the National Research Foundation have so far failed to arrive.

Although the Government's federal university budget for the next school year has yet to be finalised, it is expected to shrink or remain at 2009-2010 levels. UAE University's provost, Dr Rory Hume, said the administration was committed to expanding its research programme regardless of funding levels. "It's one of the reasons we're looking at reductions in other areas," he said. The National