New kindergartens for suburban areas

Five public schools will open on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi and Al Ain in 2011-12, offering bilingual tuition to children aged four to six.

ABU DHABI // Five more public kindergartens will open in outlying areas of the capital next month in a bid to reduce the pressure on existing schools.

The new kindergartens are expected to open for the 2011-12 academic year in the outskirts of Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, adding to the 63 kindergartens currently operated by the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec).

It is hoped the new schools will increase access to vital early childhood education for the large number of children who live there.

Each new facility will be able to accommodate 300 children in the four to six-year-old age group.

The new kindergartens, including those in Al Shawamekh and Baniyas, will be run according to the New School Model (NSM), said Mohammed Salem al Dhahiri, the executive director of school operations at Adec.

"We have noticed many parents want to enrol their children in KG schools," he said. "The vacancies are limited and most of them are running at full capacity."

The NSM system was introduced last year as part of Adec plans to revamp the public education system. The model applies modern teaching methods and a revised curriculum to promote bilingual learning, with Arabic and English taught simultaneously to students from kindergarten to Grade 3.

The changes have increased parents' confidence in the public education system, said Humaid Ibrahim Abdulla, the division manager of the students services department at Adec.

"We have recently seen a lot of migration of students from private schools to public ones," he said.

"A lot of families want to enrol their children into these schools because of a growing trust."

About 80 per cent of young Emiratis attend public schools, according to Adec.

Mr Abdulla said opening these schools in populated towns will provide proximity to parents and encourage them to enrol children at an early age.

"KGs are the gateway to the education system and parents are realising that," he said.

"Some parents decide to keep their children at home, but an increase in KGs should tackle that problem too."

At present, there is only one other kindergarten school in Al Shawamekh and five in Baniyas.

Al Ain has more than 10 kindergartens, but Dr Linda Andrews, the head of the English faculty at Al Taqwa Kindergarten, said there was still a waiting list of more than 85 pupils at her school.

"The school was built for 250 students. We are running at full capacity," she said.

"Parents understand that just because they are paying for education, it does not guarantee quality. And what they are seeing now with the NSM is that public schools are delivering that quality."

Spaces at each school are limited to avoid overcrowding, said Mr Abdulla.

"Some parents insist on a particular kindergarten which is recommended, or for the better facilities, and this puts pressure on the existing ones," he said. "The new KGs will ease that."

Building schools in these areas also provided the opportunity to address the need for improved facilities.

Adec officials said they would monitor population growth and continue to develop schools to increase capacity.

"Our planning department studies the requirements and, if there is a need, we will set up more schools," said Mr Abdulla.

Mr al Dhahiri advised parents to register at the schools between March 6 and April 28 to avoid a scramble for places at the beginning of the academic year.