Hope and anticipation as new academic year begins

For state schools in Abu Dhabi, the new academic year will entail ongoing curriculum reforms aimed at improving public education.

Children gather for a back-to-school event at Hamdan bin Zayed School in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
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ABU DHABI // Hamda Al Azdi woke up at 6.30am on Sunday, full of first-day jitters.

But as soon as she was reunited with classmates at Abu Dhabi’s Hamdan bin Zayed School for morning assembly, the 11-year-old was giddy with hope for a promising new academic year.

“I’m excited about going back to school to learn,” said Hamda, who is in Grade 6.

She was one of about 375,000 public and private school pupils who returned to class in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and the Western Region on Sunday.

For state schools, the new academic year will entail ongoing curriculum reforms in the emirate, said Dr Karima Al Mazroui, Abu Dhabi Education Council’s acting executive director for kindergarten to Grade 12.

“We are starting the school year with the hashtag #myschoolmyhappiness, and it clearly reflects the ambitious plan that Adec is taking this year,” she said.

For starters, the Abu Dhabi School Model, formerly called the New School Model, is expected to reach the end of Cycle 2 this year, meaning all public school pupils from kindergarten to Grade 9 will be taught half of their subjects in English and half in Arabic.

High school reforms that Adec introduced last year by unifying the curriculums for pupils in Grades 10 and 11 emphasising more science, technology, engineering and maths will expand to Grade 12 this academic year.

More details about the high school reforms will be announced by Adec today.

The implementation of a moral education subject in public and private schools from kindergarten to Grade 12 following a directive last month from Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, was also under way.

A pilot phase of the subject was expected to be introduced in January before it is fully implemented by September next year.

“We are very happy and we think families and school staff will be very much supportive of moral education as it’s very much needed,” said Dr Al Mazroui.

Music, art and sports education will be aligned with national goals.

“With the new changes in the country, the new museums with emphasis on arts and music, education should align,” said Dr Al Mazroui.

Adec has been training teachers for new strategies and curricula.

The feedback from the staff has been positive, Dr Al Mazroui said but, as with all education reforms, more training was needed.

“The main element is teacher training – to get the teachers to believe in the changes and the importance of those changes,” she said.

Parental support will also be key in ensuring the success of Abu Dhabi emirate’s academic reforms, she said.

Fatima Al Bastaki, principal of Hamdan bin Zayed School, which welcomed a delegation of Adec officials for its opening day, said she hoped the enthusiasm and happiness expressed by pupils and staff on the first day of school would resonate through the year.

“This is our dream to continue the year with the same passion and love of learning to ensure that happiness is existing all over the school community and extended to their home lives,” she said.