Dubai: Changing the methods used to teach Arabic is a top priority as it is one of the biggest challenges facing the language, chairman of the commission for the modernisation of teaching Arabic said.
Dr Farouk Al Baz, chairman of the commission for the Modernisation of Teaching Arabic and director of the Centre for Remote Sensing and Research, handed over the report on The Modernisation of Teaching Arabic, titled “Arabic for Life” to His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, at a press conference on Monday.
The report reviewed the current state of Arabic language teaching based on five main themes: curriculum development, culture of reading, teachers, the role of the media in supporting teaching of Arabic and, finally, teaching Arabic to non-native speakers.
Al Baz, who spoke about the report at the conference, said that “the Arabic language is easy and simple and has enough terminology to deal with any language, any science and any form of knowledge”.
He noted that instead of starting out by teaching the complicated and unfamiliar parts of the language to young children, they should take a cue from the way the sciences are taught.
“In science, we start with explaining the phenomena that is in the child’s environment — that he is already somewhat familiar with — in an easy and simple, scientific way. Then the education process develops from those simple matters that the students are familiar with to the more complex phenomena of the universe,” Al Baz said.
The commission for the Modernisation of Teaching Arabic was formed following orders by Shaikh Mohammad on April 23, 2012, as part of an integrated strategy to establish the UAE as a global “centre of excellence” for the Arabic language. It includes 14 international high-profile experts and academics.
Some of the findings showed that in the UAE 67 per cent of students face difficulties with Arabic grammar, while 59 per cent of students in Jordan and 54 per cent in Egypt face the same problem. On the other hand, 70 per cent of teachers in the UAE had problems with the grammar, 37 per cent in Jordan and 62 per cent in Egypt.
It also showed that both teachers and students saw that the major focus in teaching the Arabic language was grammar — this was the perception of 70 per cent of teachers and 50 per cent of students. However, 17 per cent of students and 24 per cent of teachers felt less attention was given to other aspects such as composition and writing.
Al Baz said they have noticed that students do not read for leisure enough. The study showed that only 42 per cent of students read more than once a week.
He added that some consider social media a threat to the Arabic language, but he said this is untrue as there are many people who use Arabic on social media. The study showed that 31 per cent of students used Fus’ha Arabic to surf the internet, 21 per cent used it on social media and 28 per cent used it to blog.
The report also indicated that there is an increased demand from non-native Arabic speakers to learn the language.
How to improve
Adhere to the principle of gradually going from the simpler to the more complex, especially in choosing the reading material
Learning Arabic should not diminish the importance of learning foreign languages
Improve the quality of Arabic language teachers, which is one of the most promising strategies that will have a direct impact on educational outcomes
Raising the criteria for admission at teacher training colleges, which will have an impact on the quality of students entering the college and improve the quality of teachers graduating from those colleges
Ministries, colleges and any supporting agencies responsible for preparing teachers should understand the importance of changing perceptions of the teaching profession in general and Arabic language teaching specifically in the Arab world - especially for men
Train Arabic teachers on the best practices to apply in their classes
Make the culture of reading part of the student’s school day
Encourage parents to read to their children on a daily basis until the children are old enough to read independently
Transform large numbers of children and youth literature into e-books that will be available for download
Create centres to spread the Arabic language and culture that will be internationally renowned