Despite the huge expat population, the Arabic language is alive and well in the UAE. It is embedded in the education system in hopes of cultivating the language even to young, non-native speakers. Fazreen Razeek considers the challenges and solutions for marrying a comprehensive, future-facing educational model with the Arabic language.
Dr Farouk El Baz, former NASA scientist for the Apollo missions who is now a research professor and director of the Centre for Remote Sensing at Boston University said “We have seen people bring back languages that have been dead for thousands of years. Arabic is not dead, so it should be much easier to improve it.”
The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) and Department of Knowledge in Abu Dhabi (ADEK) have focused on Arabic and Islamic studies to give schools the opportunity to implement new and improved teaching methods in the classroom. The Living Arabic forum is just one of the many initiatives to propagate the language use in the UAE.
But the implementation wasn’t smooth, there were a lot of challenges that the educators faced in teaching Arabic to pupils.
1. Choosing the right school
It is difficult for parents to choose the best school for their children, especially for local families. They want their children to have the best Arabic-centred curriculum yet taste international education as well. Parents want the best of both worlds for their children.
2. Restricted to classroom learning
Arabic is a dynamic language. It is not easy to learn, especially for children. With restricted classroom learning for just a few hours in one week, it is definitely hard to learn. Parents can choose Arabic language schools which follow the Ministry of Education’s curriculum, but often turn to low-rated schools as a result. Arabic is the language of the country, but most students don’t speak it outside.
3. Trained teachers
The demand for highly-trained Arabic teachers is one of the major dilemmas in the UAE. Some teachers are not trained to teach Arabic and are stuck in old methods. There isn’t enough enrichment happening in the curriculum.
4. Old Texts
The materials used to teach the Arabic language in the UAE also contribute to students’ lack of initiative in learning Arabic. The old materials or old texts used can put off students. If teachers start with texts that are a hundred years old then move on to modern materials, children will feel alienated to use them.
5. Afraid to Embrace Foreign Words
Most students are afraid to embrace foreign words. English is the universal language and the standard business language in the UAE. Most subjects are taught in English. So how can children, especially non-native speakers embrace a totally foreign language apart from their own?
6. Thinking in their own language
Creating an Arabic pride among children is hard especially in a society like UAE where everything is being spoken in English. Students learn to think in their own language and it’s really hard to think in another language when you’re not taught about it.
The government of the UAE wants to position Arabic as a universal language and a language of science and culture. Indeed, Arabic is the language of the future.
Schools should take action and teach Arabic to non-native Arabic speakers through activities ensuring the language is attractive to the student. Arabic culture should be deeply integrated with the curriculum as an engaging topic.
Similarly, teachers should work together to ensure students love Arabic learning. They should start thinking of improving ways to teach Arabic to students.
Educators have to show the students the positive points of learning other languages. Learning shouldn’t be limited to just books and pens. Teachers should also be refreshed to teach Arabic and teach other subjects in the language. Children should be encouraged to read Arabic texts and the media in the UAE should support this.
Instead of moving from ancient Arabic materials to the modern texts, teachers should move from modern text which students can relate to, then move to old texts. Learning Arabic is surprisingly easy as most Arabic words are also adopted by other languages. This is how a language evolves.
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About the Author
Fazreen Razeek from Edarabia.com has served the education industry for over 5 years. He collaborates and works alongside education-marketing agencies, event organizers, and educational Institutions ranging from nurseries, schools, and universities to develop and execute their marketing strategies. He is extremely passionate about education technology and also writes for various local and international publications. A graduate with High Distinction from the Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia, Fazreen holds a Bachelor’s Degree with a double major in Marketing & Management.