UAE teachers urged to give ownership of classrooms to students

Nicholas Horsburgh, a British author who has written more than 100 school textbooks for children, urged teachers to take a more proactive role with their pupils.

DUBAI // Teachers have been urged to “give ownership of the classroom to pupils” and move away from rote learning from textbooks.

Nicholas Horsburgh, a British author who has written more than 100 school textbooks, urged teachers to take a more proactive role with their pupils. Speaking during the Dubai Teachers’ symposium at Media One Hotel, in Media City, he said a vibrant and fun classroom was vital in the learning process.

“Give ownership of the classroom to the pupils and, in return, they will be more engaged and learn more,” he said during the one-day conference.

“However, what many teachers do is get their pupils to just sit and read a textbook.”

The problem with this approach was that it meant that brighter pupils became bored, while those that were not at their level often struggled to keep pace and became frustrated.

“One of the things schools can do is have a shelf full of books with supplementary reading,” he told a room of about 30 teachers, mainly from Indian and Pakistani curriculum schools in the UAE.

“The smarter pupils can then continue their reading if they finish early while others will feel less pressurised to keep up and go at their own pace.

“The world is an interesting and fun place and the key to learning is trying to bring that into the classroom and the best way to do that is to use illustrations, art and poems.

“One of the things I advise teachers, particularly if they are teaching English, is that they encourage their pupils to sing.

“Not only does this relax them and put them in a good mood but they also learn how to vary their pitch and tone.”

For most pupils the teacher will be the only person that speaks to them in English during the day and it was important to talk in a conversational manner rather than just reading aloud a few phrases from a book, he said.

“There must be dynamism in the classroom and that starts with the teacher,” said Mr Horsburgh, who has worked in schools across the Indian subcontinent.

The symposium was organised by Oxford University Press to mark the UAE launch of schoolbooks from Oxford University Press China, India and Pakistan.

“For me, the biggest thing is the poor level of pay that most teachers get while working in these types of schools,” said Imran Sajjad, a teacher at Pakistan Community School in Ajman.

“I think with better pay you would see less stress and teachers able to devote more time to their teaching.”

He said he was aware of some teachers who have to take on second jobs to have enough money to make ends meet.

Mamta Pradhan, a senior coordinator at the Leaders Private School in Sharjah, said although technology had improved education, some pupils lacked practical skills.

“If you compare to India, the pupils there get much more experience in terms of learning to apply what they do in a classroom to the real world,” she said. “Even small things like having the children go out to shops to buy things doesn’t really happen here as much.

“There are extenuating circumstances for that because it’s not very conducive to walk that much in the UAE, but I think it’s important to have children use what they learn in a practical way.

“Education should be about applying what you learn to the outside world.”

nhanif@thenational.ae

Published: December 10, 2014 04:00 AM

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