Dr Mugheer Al Khaili Image Credit: ADEC

Abu Dhabi: A new professional development programme will soon see the majority of public school teachers across the emirate of Abu Dhabi achieve English proficiency within the next few years, senior education officials said in the capital on Sunday.

The programme aims to give more than 6,000 teachers proficiency in the language that is used to teach subjects like maths and science under the Abu Dhabi Education Council’s New School Model.

Arabic language and Islamic Studies teachers are however not required to have English proficiency.

“While 90 per cent of public school leaders like principals and vice-principals are fluent in English, teachers have so far not been required to demonstrate their knowledge of the language,” Rashid Al Abdouli, professional development specialist at the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec), told Gulf News.

“However, the English proficiency programme aims to enable all teachers to achieve minimum required scores in standard English proficiency tests, like the Test Of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS),” he added.

Adec’s New School Model emphasises student-centred learning over rote learning.

It is currently applied for pupils enrolled up to Grade 5 in public schools, and will be implemented for all grades by 2018. English language proficiency will thus become a necessity for all public school teachers, except Arabic language educators.

The English proficiency scores required from teachers will however depend on what subjects they are teaching, Al Abdouli said.

“For example, science and maths teachers need to achieve a minimum academic IELTS band of 5.5, whereas English language teachers need to place at the 6.5 band or above,” he said.

To facilitate this programme, Adec is gathering information on teachers’ current proficiencies. Al Abdouli added that the English language training sessions could begin as early as the end of 2012. In addition to training for those who need to reach the required test scores, additional sessions for those who want to improve their English language skills could also be organised.

The programme will aim to deliver six hours of training a week for most teachers. There is however no strict timeline for when all teachers are expected to be proficient, said Kevin Smythe, manager of English programmes at Adec.

“A similar programme has been in place for nearly five years, but each year, we are placing more focus on English proficiency. At present, we need to determine teachers’ current fluency, before dividing them into training groups and assessing progress,” Smythe said.

While 90 per cent of English language teachers at public schools have the required levels of English proficiency, only about 50 per cent of science and maths teachers in comparison have the recommended knowledge of English, he added.

In a conference on Sunday, Adec also announced that a range of other training programmes geared toward public school teachers, leaders and staff are set to begin soon.

Under the Tamkeen programme, for instance, nearly 6,000 teachers across 182 schools will be trained in areas such as student-centred learning, information and communication technology, and differentiation and special needs education.

Staff will also be trained to perform self-evaluations and inspections of their schools as part of the Irtiqa’a programme.

Mariam Saqr, programme manager for Irtiqa’a, said training would begin in November 2012, and that schools will be inspected from January 2013 onwards.

“Nearly 80 schools will be inspected in areas such as student performance, teaching quality, and quality of educational facilities by the 2013-2014 academic year. In the second cycle of inspections in the 2013-2014 academic year, 183 more schools will be checked. For these, we will train staff so that they can perform self-evaluations,” Mariam said.

Other sessions will equip teachers and Adec staff with the new teaching guidelines under Adec’s New School Model, as well in Arabic language teaching methods.