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Arabic language supervisor at the Indian High School, (IHS), Dubai Ebtihal Ghannam has been teaching Arabic at the school for over 30 years. One of the senior-most teachers of the school, Ghannam stated that she never found the need to change her job.

"Teaching Arabic to expatriate students has been a very fulfilling experience," said Ghannamn while talking to Khaleej Times. "However, after all these years of effort, the hard work is finally paying off and students are able to hold a conversation in Arabic," she said.For many expatriate millennials who have completed their middle and high school in the UAE, learning Arabic mostly revolved around learning the script - reading and writing - without actually knowing what they're reading and writing.

"In the old system, children only knew the letters and the numbers and a few very common phrases.... They studied Arabic to pass their examinations and very few students had genuine interest in the language," said Head of Department of Arabic at IHS, Aisha Ahmad Al Jundi. Learning Arabic for expatriate students is mandatory till Grade 9, irrespective of the curriculum followed by the school

And according to the National Agenda for Education, the percentage of students with high skills in Arabic should be at 90 per cent.

According to national tests, an indicator that measures the share of ninth grade students with high skills in the Arabic language (reading, writing, spelling) in public and private schools applying the Ministry of Education curriculum was measured at 58.85 per cent at 2014.

However, in the last two years, as per directives and guidance from the Ministry of Education and the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), non-Arabic speaking expatriate students are finally able to hold conversations in Arabic and in some cases, even debate about current-affair issues in the language."The change has been very drastic and it happened shortly after we shifted our attention into improving the grammar skills of students," said another Head of Department of Arabic at IHS, Afaf Azibi.

She added: "At a junior-school level, we worked on the grammar skills of children and gave them a lot of visual and reading exercises that led them to develop the interest they have now."

In the last two years, student perception towards the subject has changed. According to the teachers, strengthening the grammar skills played the biggest role in improving language skills among the students.

However, children not speaking the language outside of school still remain the biggest challenge.

Parental involvement is definitely very necessary. "Parents can attend Arabic classes organised by us during the weekend," she said.

"Ideally, by Grade 9, students must have a high proficiency in Arabic-speaking, reading and writing skills, if all schools follow a more modern outlook," said Al Jundi.

Top 5 media and websites for Arabic

1. Space Toon arabia

2. Al Jazeera (for political commentary)

3 BBC News Arabic

4. Go Arabic- Twitter Account

5. Learn Arabic- Accela Study

Six way to speak Arabic outside classroom:

1. Listen to 20 minutes Arabic everyday: Encourage your child to listen to 20 minutes of Arabic everyday on the radio or a television channel

2. Visit cultural and heritage sites:  Children must be encouraged to visit Arab cultural and heritage sites and asked to make notes in Arabic, and give a presentation about the place to their classmates in Arabic

3. Role play and drama children: Children can stage dramas in Arabic as part of extra-curricular activities

4.Integration with other  subjects:Learn subjects like Social Studies, Science, and History in Arabic. Incorporate phrases and lines in Arabic into other subjects

5. Watch Arabic movies: Try and watch Arabic movies with English subtitles and pay close attention to words and phrases

6. Have a conversation with cashiers and shopkeepers  in Arabic. Learn how to make small financial transactions in ArabicToP
Page last updated 31 December 2019
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