Pupils prepare for a new curriculum in Abu Dhabi

Well-trained teachers will deliver an improved curriculum to more than 9,000 state school pupils when the New School Model is implemented in Grade 5 next month.

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DUBAI // Well-trained teachers will deliver an improved curriculum to 9,300 state school pupils in the capital when the New School Model is implemented in Grade 5 next month.
When the new academic year begins, about 105 cycle 1 schools (Grades 1 to 5) will have completed the transition to the New School Model (NSM), which was launched by Adec in 2010.
The model was developed after a study by education consultant Parthenon Group found major shortcomings in the way pupils were being taught in government schools.
Based on their feedback, the council developed a bilingual and internationally aligned education system that caters to children with different abilities, eliminates rote learning and prepares pupils for higher education and careers.
"Parents and teachers say the model has attained those learning outcomes so far," said Dr Karima Al Mazroui, the curriculum division manager Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec).
"We are now focusing on those changes for Grade 5 and particularly on professional development for the teachers."
Teachers will undergo literacy coaching and pupils will receive revised textbooks with more practical application-based lessons. A new publisher has been contracted to deliver age appropriate mathematics textbooks, too.
"We know where the children stand right now and they need a similar level when they move up the grades," she said.
Adec is also creating its own culturally relevant resources with a focus on literacy skills.
As the model is rolled out to cover all grades by 2015, several "unhealthy practices" will be addressed.
A major change has been brought in the council's policy of passing and failing grades, as children can no longer be held back a year.
The practice of repeating grades in the UAE was found to adversely influence pupils' desire to continue in education and contributes to dropout rates.
Dr Lynne Pierson, the executive director of P-12 education at Adec, said the change in policy was based on the fundamental belief that "all children can learn" and "all teachers are responsible for student learning".
"There is research that indicates strongly that retention of pupils is not effective," said Dr Pierson.
"Our policy sees to it that pupil progress is tracked."
According to Adec, if a pupil enters a grade level at a developmentally appropriate age, it is the responsibility of the school to ensure the student remains on-track to be promoted to the next grade level.
"If a decision is made to hold a child back, there needs to be a discussion with the teachers about what the benefits are."
Dr Al Mazroui said they used continuous assessment to help monitor and provide added support to a child falling behind.
"It is not like before when we had to wait till the very end of the academic year to find out their performance," Dr Al Mazroui said.
Adec has now begun preparing for its 2013 introduction of the NSM to cycle 2 (Grade 6-9) and 3 (Grades 10-12) schools.
The Parthenon Group research found the existing curriculum for Grades 6-9 were better aligned to international standards. It recommended that the council explore an alternative to the two-stream system in the high schools, wherein pupils are forced to take multiple subjects in either a science or arts stream.
"Our efforts will be to introduce an academic and career guidance programme in both cycles," Dr Pierson said.
"We want a systematic programme that will assist pupils to begin to think about their future and link their aspirations with the UAE's human capital needs."
Additional art and music courses will also be added to the coursework.
Salam Al Haddad, principal of the Al Suqoor cycle 2 school, said they are being prepared for the changes to come.
"We are looking forward to the training and professional development programmes the teachers of the New School Model are getting," said Mr Al Haddad.
"It's necessary that we keep learning in the profession so we are better equipped to teach children of today."
He said they have been given several computers to use for lessons and were looking forward to more upgrades next year.