Quarter of UAE schools not meeting moral education expectations

A government report finds teachers are facing challenges in engaging pupils and planning lessons

DUBAI, UAE. November 5, 2014. Seniors from Al Mawakeb school attend a Math class. (Journalist: Roberta Pennington) Reem Mohammed / The National
Powered by automated translation

Almost a quarter of schools are not meeting expectations for the government’s new moral education programme.

Challenges such as teachers' inability to engage pupils and a lack of lesson planning have lead to 23 per cent of schools falling below expectations.

The report, released by the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court’s education affairs office, found that while 77 per cent of schools were meeting the expectations of the moral education programme, many teachers are struggling with planning lessons and engaging pupils.

Moral education was introduced in private and government schools in September 2017. The subject, which is taught without textbooks and no exams, is intended to instill tolerance, community spirit and compassion in pupils.

Jim Stearns, deputy principal at Victoria International School in Sharjah, teaches moral science to Grade 8 pupils and said that it was a promising start.

"We had to redo our timetable structure to accommodate the new moral education programme. Some schools might have found this challenging," he said.

"Staff training is another area, getting staff who need to be confident with the material.

"We are less than two years into running the course and I would argue that for a relatively young course, it's doing pretty well.

Earlier this year, head teachers across the UAE called for staff to receive special training to teach moral education at a meeting of more than 180 school principals from Dubai and the Northern Emirates.

Some headteachers said aspects of the subject are "heavy and dry" while others said they needed more support and "buy in" from parents.

Ron Hodkinson, principal of Ontario International Canadian School, believes that every class should have a moral education component, be it Arabic, Islamic studies, music or maths.

"Delivering and understanding the curriculum is a key target for schools right now," he said.

"To me, the most important part is: do our staff understand what the programme is about? Can they teach it effectively and can we assess it promptly and what is the impact on pupils?

"If it's going to be effective then the people who are implementing it have to own it and believe in it. If they are telling you they need more professional development, it warrants a further conversation.

"Moral education is the responsibility of all of the staff."

The report assessed 617 schools on curriculum, teaching and engagement; assessment of and support for student learning, leadership and management.