Education Chiefs Consider Cutting Compulsory Subjects

  • 5 October 2011

A plan to reduce the number of compulsory subjects and increase elective courses for government high school pupils may be implemented in the next two years.

The current system, which requires pupils from Grade 10 onwards to take 13 mandatory subjects and choose between two academic streams - literary or science - has led to a loss of interest and a high dropout rate, said Sheikha Khulood Al Qassimi, the director of the curriculum department at the Ministry of Education.

She was speaking yesterday on the sidelines of the Essentials in Education conference in the capital.

"We have started developing the curricula, taking examples from international systems and one that is based on pupils' outcomes," she said. "Our current system is not working and pupils must have optional areas to chose from."

Grade 10 pupils currently must take Islamic education, Arabic, English, mathematics, history, geography, physics, chemistry, biology, geology, information technology, civic education and physical education.

A curriculum review carried out for the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) by the education advisory Parthenon Group last year found serious deficiencies in the way the secondary school education was structured.

They said the two-track system was restricting pupils and did not offer any choices.

Yousef Al Shehhi, the principal at Al Ras Secondary School, said teachers had been calling for a reduction in the number of subjects for a long time.

"I proposed it to the ministry three years ago because I see no benefit in it at all," he said.

Dr Abdullatif Al Shamsi, the director general of the Institute of Applied Technology (IAT), who is working with Adec to change the secondary school education system, said the curriculum needed to encourage pupils to pursue appropriate careers - especially in science and technology.

"Because of the rigidity and lack of practical association to the theory taught in school, most pupils are not interested," he said.

The IAT was established by the government in 2005 to provide technical education at the secondary school level to produce scientists, engineers and technicians.

But more than 70 per cent of government school pupils were enrolled in the arts stream and this was hampering efforts to develop talent in these fields, said Dr Al Shamsi.

He believed the school environment did not support exploration and enquiry, and that this dissuaded pupils from taking up careers in science.

"There is no practical work. If they are learning mathematics they should be able to apply it to robotics or some other experiment," he said.

He proposed the introduction of core subjects and "clusters" for pupils to chose from. "The core subjects will include those that strengthen the national identity like Arabic, civic studies and Islamic education as well as mathematics and IT to ensure they all have the necessary skills on graduation."

For the academic clusters, he suggested natural sciences, social sciences and business streams that would offer a range of optional courses. He said his blueprint was similar to successful systems followed in Germany and Singapore.

Dr Mugheer Al Khaili, the director general of Adec, agreed that more science graduates were needed to realise the capital's 2030 vision of innovation and industry.

"Students have to be taught critical thinking and vocational skills," he said. "For that, the study in schools and universities has to be tailored to meet the market demand."