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Focus: Death of a school by rating

From books to iPad, discipline to empowerment, and memorisation to innovation, schools and education system are changing. Parents in the Middle East spend Dh39 billion in school fees but are all the changes good? In a recent poll on 80 per cent of Gulf News readers felt that teachers are not getting as much respect now as they used to. So, are traditional schools dying? Gulf News readers debate.

  • Nassef Nabeeh Naguib, Educational adviser living in Abu DhabiImage Credit: Supplied
  • Poonam Heryani, Academic research and development expert living in DubaiImage Credit: Supplied
  • Tayyaba Anwar, Paediatrician and Co-author children’s books based in DubaiImage Credit: Supplied
Gulf News

Our focus is not just on physical skills but cognition, too

I support the move to modern and contemporary styles of teaching. As a teacher, I have adopted the approach, which is called TGFU — Teaching games for understanding. In a traditional setup, normally what the teachers did was give the children a ball and let them play. But with TGFU, children don’t just play, through the six phases of learning which are implemented, children have meaningful learning. So the child has to understand what is being taught, apart from playing. I am also using technology-integration in my classes – I record practical performances and because my phone has the feature of slow motion, I am able to tell my students whether their body orientation is correct, for example. I am able to give them feedback on how they can improve. Another online formative assessment tool helps me feed data on physical movements of a child into the system and it can check for the child’s cognitive understanding. So, we don’t just develop physical skills, we develop cognitive skills as well. However, one issue that I have seen in general with schools today is how they don’t prioritise physical education. Even with inspections, when it comes to extra curricular activities, social and cultural subjections seem to take precedence over physical education. But as a PE teacher, my focus is to give students opportunities to explore movements and hone necessary sports skills to be healthy, active and fit.

From Mr Nicart Obsuna

Physical education head at a Dubai-based school



Teachers are no longer the only source of information

I don’t know if this is the death of traditional schools, but the idea of traditional schools is definitley becoming weaker. Technology is a trend that just cannot be ignored, even though how useful or useless it is depends on how it is being used.

Spending too much time playing computer games weakens your creative abilities but if you use your computer to create something new or useful, it becomes beneficial. Technology has definitely created an improvement in the education system, even when you look at education at the primary level. When you teach children numbers, with them pressing on a calculator to see the digits appear encourages them and helps them undertsand abstract ideas better.

However, physical education is being given less priority than it used to be and this is one of the biggest disasters and probably a tax that we are paying for technology. Many years ago, you just had one TV at home and the family sat around it to watch the same content. That created some intimacy. Right now, that isn’t happening at homes and nothing is being done at schools to make up for the lack of outdoor activities.

Discipline has changed, too. The teacher has less power and authority these days because the child does not feel like he or she is less than the teacher, especially when it comes to getting education. The teacher is no longer the only source of providing information reacting to their instructions differently.

From Mr Nassef Nabeeh Naguib

Educational adviser living in Abu Dhabi



With very young childre, old-school methods still work best

Traditional schools are not dying but they are definitely changing. I don’t know how much of the changes are being really implemented because when we talk about creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and innovation, they might be implementing it in parts, but I don’t see it being applied as much as schools are hoping they will.

As far as the use of tablets is concerned, it does not require high technical skills and while I undertand that there are apps and educational programmes, children are mostly attracted by the sounds, lights and colours not the depth of knowledge. I think that is more to do with schools trying to follow a trend or fad.

I recently read an article where it said that instead of taking notes on your laptops, by writing you retain and learn more.

Another issue is the ‘Disney-fication’ of everything — we aren’t taking about Nature and most children are just reading books, doing activities and puzzles based on their favourite characters. That limits their vocabulary and imagination as well. What realy works is getting them to talk, telling them things and letting them imagine. Technology can supplement it to a very limited extent, what helps is hearing words, expressing themselves and learning. So I think for young children, the old-fashioned method still works best.

From Ms Tayyaba Anwar

Paediatrician and Co-author children’s books based in Dubai



To train children for jobs of the future, teaching and schools have to change

Schools are definitely changing a lot but if we want to cater to the demands of the future, teaching and learning has to change. However, the way the whole process is being taken up within the UAE is quite debatable and interesting to see. Sometimes, there are seasons of innovation in the teaching process and in some months the teaching stule is completely traditional, leaving the children confused.

However, some new schools are doing really well and setting the standard for what modern schools should be doing, including focussing on moral education and emotional security.

By 2030, two million jobs will be taken over by technology. So if we do not make changes in classromms right now, we are not doing students a favour. But what we need to look at his how we use technology - some classes simply replace regular text books with multimedia content. That is not technology in the classroom. Instead, it is about integrating it with the syllabus and using it as a resource where children brainstorm and learn about collective work and collaboration.

Upgrading teaching skills is a challenge and I don’t blame schools either because schools that have been here for years will not find it easy to upgrade all teachers unless teachers take it upon themselves to upgrade their skills.

Traditionally, the teaching system presumed the same starting point for every child. But when a child already knows what you are teaching, they switch off.

By using spreadsheet software if you have a lesson on plants, you will get sub-topics and I keep clicking on the options to mark if I have already studied this particular part of the syllabus and have notes on a lesson, for example. So, I can map what I have covered, what I need a teacher’s help for and do self-study on a particular lesson. This data is accessible to parents and teachers as well.

So, time is used more effectively and learning gaps are covered accordingly. Differentiated approach to teaching – which is what Dubai Knowledge wants - takes the child from where he or she is to the next level. This also includes working with SEN (Special Education Needs) children.

Because of ratings and the agenda they set, people are looking into these issues and talking about it. Yes, it can be better but ratings are helping put the focus on the right issues.

From Ms Poonam Heryani

Academic research and development expert living in Dubai



— Compiled by Huda Tabrez/Community Web Editor

Gulf News asked: Do you think inspections and ratings are helping children’s education?




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