DUBAI// Nursery teachers will be assessed and recognised through an international credential programme specially adapted for the UAE.
A pilot group of about 30 women have signed up to apply for the Child Development Associate certificate. The applicants will be evaluated on their knowledge and skill as early childhood educators.
“Parents can rest assured that their teacher is competent,” said Samia Kazi, chief operating officer of Arabian Child, the early childhood consultancy that brought the credential to the UAE. “It’s proof that their teacher is qualified.”
The credential was developed by the Council for Professional Recognition in the United States. This is the first time it has been tailored to the Arab world. “We didn’t want to bring something copy-pasted,” Ms Kazi said.
Research by Arabian Child in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Affairs in 2011 found that more than 80 per cent of nursery teachers did not have the educational qualifications for the job.
The ministry has since required all nursery teachers to complete 30 hours a year of professional development training. Teachers who gain the CDA credential will have that requirement reduced to 18 hours.
“Once you do get the CDA credential, then you’re considered qualified under the Ministry of Social Affairs,” Ms Kazi said.
Applicants for the credential must have either a bachelor’s degree in early-childhood education or 120 hours of specialised training. Those in the pilot group are about half-way through their training.
“I wanted to do something that takes me a step further,“ said one of them, Rula Abu-Lughod, manager of Dreamland Nursery in Sharjah. “You feel refreshed when you add more knowledge.”
The training has given Shawna Willhelm, a teacher at another nursery in Sharjah, a renewed sense of direction.
“I initially signed up because my manager said I had to be qualified with a certificate,” she said. I’m very happy and very pleased that I took the course … I don’t want to stop here.”
She dreams of eventually becoming a ministry inspector who evaluates nurseries, or a trainer for other nursery teachers.
Ms Willhelm had no formal training in early childhood education; she was offered a job while searching for a nursery for her own children. But preparing to apply for the credential has given her specialised knowledge about psychology, child interaction and ideas for activities.
“The first five weeks they were learning a lot about theories, latest research, basic CPR, child protection, emergency preparedness,” Ms Kazi said. “Level two we’re going to more advanced stuff like child assessment, emotional intelligence.”
The training programme will finish in March.
“They do six hours every Saturday and then they have six hours of work to do at home per week,” Ms Kazi said.
Afterwards the participants will apply for the credential. The process involves a teacher portfolio, a written exam, an interview, a parent survey and classroom observation.
“All of these five things come together. Either they pass or fail to get the diploma,” Ms Kazi said.
Arabian Child modified the parent surveys and the assessment standards for the local cultural context.
In addition to the pilot group of English-speaking nursery staff, a group of about 30 Arabic-speaking teachers have started training to apply for the credential. Their assessments will begin later this year.
"Having the knowledge is not enough," Ms Kazi said. "We need to have a mechanism to test whether they are applying that in the classroom."