AP&L Academy

Act Play & Learn. Bridging learning gaps through play!

Analysis: UAE Education Needs Assessment

The field of education is rife with terms like “learner -centred”, “student-focused” and “community-based” curriculum design. This trend has gained rapid momentum in order to address the key persisting issues in education: Dissatisfaction in achieving learning objectives by the learner and not being sufficiently prepared to transfer learning in the local community context (ADEC “Abu Dhabi Higher Education Strategic Plan”, July 2010).

 Research in the realm of pedagogy and andragogy places significant emphasis on Constructivism, a term that explains how learners absorb new knowledge based on their prior experiences and social influences (Smaldino, et.al, 2005). Learning theories also indicate that all learners have unique learning needs as well as styles. The Kinaesthetic Learner will respond well in a physically active learning environment. The Auditory Learner will perform relatively better in the presence of rich aural cues. The Visual Learner will look for visuals in order to perceive the presentation appropriately (Slavin, 2002). Day time school hours prioritize on academic curricula over several other aspects of a child. They lack the training, resources and time to complete the objectives of a curriculum. After-school programs supplement the day time curriculum as well as aid in a well-rounded development of the learner through carefully designed activities in various disciplines. These are very specific and unique to a community.

The Act, Play & Learn (AP&L) Curriculum addresses the learning and teaching needs of the Emirati Community as well as the expats in UAE. These sections will demonstrate how the gaps in the public school curriculum, the university as well as corporate training can be filled through this curriculum.

The design and methodology of APL&L Model will be based on principles of constructivism within the realms of the Emirati Culture and the policy standards of ADEC (Abu Dhabi Education Council Strategic Plan for P-12 Education (2009-2018), June 2009.

“Overall, the UAE curriculum is narrow and covers fewer subjects and subject areas than the best performing countries in the world. UAE schools fail to offer vocational skills training or any elective subjects — such as home economics, environmental science or business studies. The UAE could also benefit from diversifying its secondary level curricular offerings and lengthening its school week. Currently, it is estimated that UAE schools have approximately 22.5 hours of instruction per week, in comparison to the international average of 27 hours per week. Extending the school day would enable the broadening of the curriculum.” (Farah & Ridge, “Challenges to Curriculum Development in UAE”, 2009)

The National Assessment Authority of UAE (NAPUAE) as well as the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) confirmed an improvement in achievement scores in CAPA, TIMMS and PISA (Chadwick, 2009). However, after five years of implementation, in 2012, reports highlighting the failing areas of the MAG curriculum blame the incomplete achievement of learning goals. These areas are critical in proposing modification in NMS Curriculum. Currently, the key challenges faced by MAG as proposed in publications in Dubai School of Government Policy and the UAE National Assessment Program (UAENAP) are:

 • Transforming the attitudes and approaches of teachers. • Expanding the scope of the curriculum content, and designing appropriate assessment strategies.

• Local capacity must be expanded in order to ensure sustainability and suitability in curriculum reform.

• More positive steps need to be taken with regard to other subjects such as art and music, both of which have not been given enough importance in the national curriculum so far.

• Alan Egbert, Middle East manager of the Australian Council for Educational Research, which helped to develop and administer the standardised tests in Arabic, English, mathematics and science for the Ministry of Education expressed his concern over national assessment results, "The achievement level in the primary levels is significantly lower than expected based on the set curriculum outcomes. This is a cause of concern and needs to be addressed.”

• UAENAP results emphasize the need to improve the Arabic as well as English Language writing, spelling and reading skills of the Emirati learner, particularly at the primary level. (Egbert, "A clearer picture: national and international testing in the UAE”, 2012

• Lack of Emirati authors to create curriculum content and teacher training workshops to implement the new curriculum (Ahmed, The National, February 13, 2012).

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