There is an entire generation of third-culture Arab anglophones who are now heads of families. These are people who have Arab roots and grew up and were educated in a non-Arabic place like the USA, Canada, Australia, the UK, France, The Netherlands, Sweden, …. you get the point.
These third-culture kids are now grown up global citizens who often have dual citizenship and Western university degrees. Anyone living in the UAE has met, worked, and/or befriended these Western Arabs. The mix of Western amenities, respect of Arabic heritage, religion and values makes the UAE a magnet for these Arab global citizens from the West.
Many of these Western Arabs reflect deeply about the education of their kids and the values attached to formal study. The place of Arabic studies plays a key role in the decision making process.
In Dubai, there is a distinct advantage that is attractive to families who want to ensure their kids don’t lose their Arab identity. In Dubai, you can go to a private school that delivers a Western curriculum, graduate with a diploma that is recognized in top universities around the world, AND learn Arabic in school.
What a great advantage!
The importance of the Arabic classes in Western private schools is critical. It is not simply about a language class. It is not only about an additional credit course. It is tightly coupled with the identity of the child. This is why the quality of Arabic instruction in these schools can be nothing less than great.
When the Arabic teacher is the least qualified in the school.
When the Arabic instruction is the only one that is not fun, interactive, and student-centered.
When you ask the child, what is your least favorite subject? and they answer Arabic because it is BORING!
The damage that is being done is not just that the child does not learn the language. The damage that is being done is that the hidden message that is being imprinted onto the child says: When it comes to your Arab heritage, we can’t do better than this!
So when I hear principals stating that this is the best Arabic teacher that we can find in Dubai in response to complaints from students and parents who are not impressed with the traditional unwelcoming teaching approaches being used in the Arabic classes – I simply cannot accept it!
I know excellent Arabic teachers who are innovative and who believe that the most important learning that kids need to walk away with is a love of learning Arabic. When this does not happen, then we have failed!
Failed the Western Arabs who have made the decision to celebrate their heritage and make it a part of their kids education.
Failed the kids who are victims of lackadaisical attitudes.
Failed the Arabic heritage and language and its global place in the 21st century.
This is a call to all Arabic teachers in Dubai who are innovative and fun. Those who believe in respecting the whole child and making sure they love Arabic. Those who do go that extra mile with parents who don’t speak Arabic to help them help their child.
First, I applaud you!
Second, I implore you to PLEASE raise your voices and speak out when you see teaching approaches that do not belong in schools with kids who are there to learn.