Arabic in Foreign Private Schools
This subject always creates a lot of emotive conversation when brought up amongst expat parents. Since the creation of the Knowledge & Human Development Authority (KHDA) the teaching of Arabic in foreign private schools has become a huge focus and the amount of hours the children get taught Arabic has increased. The KHDA state that any private school that has non-Arab students shall teach four Arabic Language classes per week for all grades through to Year 9 (age 13-14). The private schools are allowed to use their own language books after obtaining approval from the Authority.
The biggest challenge to schools has been in recruiting the Arabic subject teachers that will employ the same teaching techniques that the schools use in other subjects ie not standing at a black board writing reels of information on the board and having the children just write it down but by using teaching techniques that engage the child. The biggest challenge for the parents is that the majority of us do not know any Arabic so helping our children with their homework is extremely hard. I did find a very useful book to help me called “The Usborne First Thousand Words in Arabic”.
At Primary/Elementary level the children are introduced to the concept of writing from right to left rather than left to right & it is their first introduction to Arabic letters and their sounds. From this they graduate to learn a variety of vocabulary such as basic greetings, numbers, colors, days of the week, months etc. Students are taught how to read and write words. This all continues into Years 7 through to Year 9 (middle school) where they learn simple sentences and basic conversation. Learning Arabic is compulsory up to and including Year 9 after this students may choose Arabic as one of their options and study the subject in more depth for a qualification such as GCSE.
Recently I have found a huge improvement in my children’s ability to learn & enjoy Arabic and I feel this is due to the new teaching techniques that the schools have spent time & energy implementing in their Arabic departments. Arabic is now taught through games, songs and use of the interactive white boards. Often you see Arabic classes move out of the classroom and practice outside which the children love for any topic. Teaching of Arabic in the foreign private schools is slowly becoming an interactive part of school life, e.g. often Arabic teachers are at the school gate greeting the children on arrival (in Arabic) or out on duty in the playground during break where they use Arabic words. Many schools stream their children in Arabic classes so children in each class are moving at the pace appropriate to their knowledge of Arabic. At some schools Arabic is acknowledged along side core subjects such as Maths at the weekly assembly with students being awarded certificates for their achievement in Arabic that week.
I do acknowledge this is not the same experience that all parents in Dubai are encountering and many people feel their children are sitting in four lessons a week and learning nothing when this could be time better spent on improving their English & Maths however hopefully all schools will slowly implement better Arabic teaching techniques and the expat children of Dubai will one day leave feeling proud that they can speak the language of the country they spent so much of their childhood in.