New start for schools as teachers learn a better model

Adec's New School Model, with teaching simultaneously in Arabic and English, will begin throughout the emirate from today.

Abu Dhabi, UAE, September 14, 2010: 
Salma El Khidir, the SLO School's liaison officer, goes over basic skills teachers should be aware of as they head into the school year. 

The Director General of Adec, Dr. Mugheer Al Khaili announced yesterday his plans to have every student in the UAE fluent in English and Arabic by the time they graduate in order to better equip the country's future leaders. 

Lee Hoagland / The National
Powered by automated translation

ABU DHABI // Standing in front of a class at a school in the centre of Abu Dhabi, a teacher explained a key concept, underlining her point on the whiteboard. Seated before her were not pupils, but dozens of fellow teachers being introduced to the Abu Dhabi Education Council's (Adec) New School Model (NSM), which will be taught throughout the emirate from today.

The Al Mawaheb Model School was one of 29 centres from the capital to far-flung locations such as Delma Island where close to 4,000 teachers were trained before the beginning of the school year. It was also the site visited by Dr Mugheer al Khaili, the director-general of ADEC, who is overseeing the introduction of the ambitious educational reform. "I'm here today to see how things are going and to get feedback and impressions from the teachers and faculty heads on the training and the programme," he said.

"I also want to give them support and wish them all the best and to send a message that what they are doing is critical and very important and that we are behind them in this reform." In one classroom, two trainers - one working in Arabic, the other in English - stood in front of the teachers explaining and sharing teaching methods, specifically relating to the first six weeks back at school. "The idea is to give teachers an opportunity to come together and to start the year right," said Patrick Flynn, a consultant with Leeds Global, the company appointed by Adec to oversee professional development. "The training focused on aspects like the physical environment and how they can manage the students throughout the year."

On Monday, Adec launched the NMS at a forum attended by more than 6,000 primary school teachers and school administrators. The new model will be rolled out in KG1, KG2 and Grades 1, 2 and 3 in Abu Dhabi government schools. Officials hope the model can be introduced across the entire school system, from KG1 to Grade 12, in the next six years. From today, some 38,000 students in 171 schools in Abu Dhabi will be taught according to the NSM, which includes the introduction of teaching simultaneously in Arabic and English.  KG1 and KG2 classes will be taught by two teachers working collaboratively, one native English speaker and one native Arabic speaker. Grades 1, 2 and 3 pupils will have native English speakers teaching English, maths and science-related subjects, while a native Arabic speaker will instruct them in Arabic, Islamic studies, social studies, music and other subjects. Teachers at KG1 to Grade 5 level will spend an additional hour after school, four days a week, attending training. Each school will also have two "faculty heads" this year, as part of the new model: one Arabic speaker and one native English speaker. The positions were created for the coordination of training and teacher support. Yesterday Dr al Khaili observed some of the sessions at the Al Mawaheb School, where 138 male and female teachers, both Emiratis and expatriates, were being trained, stopping to speak to some of the participants.  Samar Farah, a Dubai School of Government research associate focusing on education, described Abu Dhabi's new education reforms, including the emphasis on teacher training, as a "great step". "Continuous learning is well recognised around the world and has been implemented across the western world," she said. "In a constantly changing world, teachers have to keep abreast of things like technological innovations." Ms Farah said the training at the end of the school day might help to foster collaboration and interaction between the teaching staff, she said.  "The entire reform plan is a big undertaking," Ms Farah said. "But, it is a good step and, if well implemented, will mean big changes in education in Abu Dhabi."