More emphasis on science and English in UAE government schools shake-up

Education experts say new system will better prepare pupils for further education and the workplace

ABU DHABI - UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - 09SEPT2012 - Students walk to their class at Al Aasimah School, boys  government school at Shamkha Area in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National
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Pupils will study more subjects in English as part of changes that will see government schools across the emirates follow the same curriculum.

It was announced on Sunday that public schools run by Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) and Ministry of Education curriculum schools across the country would, as of next week, have a combined course called the Emirati School Model.

On Monday officials set out further details, including that more science subjects will be taught in English for those in grades 10, 11 and 12. At present, the two curricula vary between some of the emirates and officials want to unify and simplify the process.

The move came as the government seeks to encourage more young people to study science and improve their English.

At present, many public school pupils fail the high school exit test that measures their level of English readiness in grade 12. The result is that they take a ‘foundation year’ to improve before attending university.

Education experts described the new system as a hybrid that takes the best aspects of both and will better prepare pupils for further education and the workplace.

“You are getting the best practices from both the Ministry of Education and Adec by merging them together in a national curriculum,” said David Allison, head of The Schools, Students and Teachers network (SSAT), an educational consultancy based in the UK and the UAE.


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Adec and the ministry are yet to set out further details of the changes, which come into effect imminently and pupils returning to school next week.

But it appears that aspects of Abu Dhabi’s ‘New School Model’, first launched in 2010 by Adec, are being incorporated into the new curricula.

The vast majority of private schools in the UAE are not affected by the changes. Only a small number of private schools that follow the largely Arabic taught ministry curricula would see changes.

Under the existing Adec new curriculum, children spend half the day learning in Arabic and half in English – being taught maths, science and English language by mostly Western educated, native English speakers.

The two-stream curriculum, which allowed pupils to elect to follow a science or humanities course of study, was eliminated. In its place was a singular curriculum in which stem - science, technology, engineering and maths - accounted for at least 50 per cent of all subjects.

The rest of the UAE remained a three-stream system.

Education officials said on Monday that this single stream would be changed again to a three stream system, grouping pupils into general, advanced and elite, depending on ability.

“The standarisation of the education system will align the curriculum, assessments and examinations with the Ministry of Education, and ensure proper management of problems affecting students,” said Abdulrahman Al Hammadi, undersecretary at the Ministry of Education.

“This monumental collaboration between Adec and the Ministry of Education is a sure step to provide the best education outcomes for students.”

Dr Yousif Al Sheryani, advisor to Adec’s director general said there would be little impact on Abu Dhabi pupils already studying science and English-taught classes.

“The process of standardising the education system means the continuation of teaching science and mathematics in English as is currently practiced,” he said.

Grade-12 pupils entering their final year of study this year will not be affected by the changes.

The new academic year is set to begin on Sunday and principals and teachers contacted by The National said that they are unaware of a new curriculum.

Parents have welcomed the promise of better teaching and opportunities, but lamented the lack of clarification and short notice.

Um Sultan from Dubai said: “We are happy with the decision but they should have announced it earlier and not a few days before the beginning of the school year. We don’t know what the new curriculum involves and the teachers as well as the parents and the students should be prepared for such a huge move.”