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New year promises education progress in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI // Education in the capital has continued to take great strides this year – and the next 12 months are set to hold as much promise.

Parents will have more options because a number of state and private schools are due to open.

Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) already operates 268 public schools and has plans to add a further 12 – five in Al Ain and seven in the capital. Adec’s innovative New School Model, which calls for bilingual instruction from two teachers per class, continued to expand this year and teachers came under the microscope as part of a drive to improve their skills.
“We are working with local and many international universities to assist us in improving the capabilities of our teachers,” said Dr Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili, Adec’s director general.
Hundreds of teachers will be sent back to university and receive extra coaching in new teaching methods and the English language.
Parents looking for private schooling options will be pleased to hear about the opening of Repton Abu Dhabi. The British curriculum school is a branch of the 455-year-old campus in the UK.
“It is prestigious to have a campus in the capital,” said Mark Atkins, head of academics and education at Evolvence Knowledge Investments. “We intend to teach everything from manners to social competence alongside a rigorous curriculum.”
Public and private schools will turn their attention to improving their teaching of locally relevant subjects as the capital focuses on strengthening national identity.
“The UAE alphabet kit we have developed will be used more extensively in schools,” said Dr Karima Matar Al Mazroui, Adec’s Arabic curriculum section manager.
“These kits, with books and flashcards, teach the alphabet within the UAE context. Children will be learning language through culturally-based texts.”
While teachers hit the books, Adec will extend its bilingual education model to Cycle 2 schools (Grade 6 to Grade 9) where the model calls for an emphasis on arts-based education and more career counselling for high-school pupils.
Testing by Adec and Pearson Assessment this year show the new model is reaping the results it set out to achieve.
“Students are now six months ahead of where the previous batch was last year,” said Dr Jarrod Hingston, section manager for national assessment at the Abu Dhabi Education Council.
The well-rounded, bilingual graduates produced by Adec’s school system will be able to make better tertiary education choices thanks to an intensive data-collection process undertaken by the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research.
The Centre of Higher Education Data and Statistics has been collecting information about 70 ministry-accredited universities and more than 30 free-zone institutions since last year and will release its first snapshot of the country’s universities next year.
The report will include details  such as class sizes and drop-out rates, plus a university comparison guide based on graduation rates, entry scores, academic offerings, budgets, research outputs and demographics.
Entry-level requirements were raised at federal institutions last year. The Higher Colleges of Technology turned down hundreds of low-achieving Emirati high-school graduates, who were instead offered places at the Abu Dhabi Vocational Education and Training Institute colleges.
The aim was to reduce the drop-out rate and strain of financing remedial courses.
Meanwhile, federal universities plan to continue building their capacity to produce research ranked among the best in the world.
“Over the past three or four years, our research has gone up about 30 per cent,” said Dr Larry Wilson, provost of Zayed University, which is vying for a spot in the QS World Rankings. “Many papers are appearing in top-level journals. This is the kind of thing that leads to international rankings.”
Masdar Institute of Science and Technology is also working towards opening the region’s first “cleanroom lab” next year to allow for research in an airborne particle-controlled environment.
Abu Dhabi University plans to expand its undergraduate and graduate programmes, while adding recreational facilities for its 5,000 students.
“We are finalising the construction at our Khalifa campus of a new mechanical lab building,” said Dr Terry Motiuk, vice chancellor for financial and administrative affairs at the university.
“We have commenced construction of a new male dorm [and] finalising outdoor sports facilities for female students and campus residents.”