Learning English has become the United Arab Emirates (UAE) educational priority in the latest period due to political, economic, and social reasons. Educational institutions of various levels have found themselves in the situation that requires readdressing their English teaching and learning policies. The school where I am employed has also faced this need. The school officials responsible for policy making and updating are currently working on the elaboration of the new teaching strategy in various age categories of the students studying English in our school.
One of the key age categories of their interest is the early school since the latest scholarly findings suggest that the early school is the best place to learn the fundamental aspects of English in order to master the language to such a degree that will allow using it together with the native language for becoming a bilingual specialist (Kharkhurin, 2015). To achieve the set goal of elaborating the new effective policy, it is necessary to identify the key factors that impact the process of policy elaboration and decision-making.
The paper thus will have its major focus on the aspect of educational policy. Its focus will also address policy development since modern business context requires sufficient knowledge of English by the country population, and therefore, it is desirable to improve the English language proficiency in the students including the students of the public schools. In addition, the purpose of the given research is to observe the suggestions that would help teachers upgrade their teaching skills, and therefore, the paper will address how to create the new policies on teaching language in the early school to attain the ultimate results in the given area.
The following paper will address the theme of translation of English language learning in the early school into a precise set of policy statements in the context of a public school in Dubai entitled Sarah Primary School. The paper is structured in the following way: introduction, overview of the context, identification and analysis of the factors that are likely to influence the process of the policy development, evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the policy-making process in the public school under consideration, and conclusion.
The roadmap for the paper is therefore structured according to its intended purpose to determine the factors that are likely to influence the process of the policy development. The questions the paper will address are
- what contemporary teaching strategies exist that can provide the most effective results of English learning in the early school;
- how teachers’ professionalism impacts English learning in the early school;
- what standards establishing the requirements for the teachers’ professionalism are to be incorporated in the new policy;
- what barriers can teachers encounter when attempting to bring their English teaching proficiency at the new level enabling them to realize the objective set by the UAE government;
- how teachers can become the agents of motivation to help the student in the early school achieve a principally new level of English language proficiency.
Overall, the main objective of this scholarly paper is to research the theoretic background as for translating English language learning in the early school into a precise set of policy statements in the context of a public school in Dubai entitled Sarah Primary School and suggest the framework for implementing the research findings in practice. The paper will discuss the way incorporation of the latest technologic solutions into the teaching process will help facilitate students’ progress.
It will also make an overview of the barriers that teachers may face in their activity and how these barriers should be addressed in the new educational policy for the school. A yet another point the paper will have a large portion of its attention on is how teachers’ proficiency impacts students’ success in learning English in the early school, and how the new policy should delineate the standards of the teachers’ proficiency.
Overview of the Context
The context of the given project is a public school in Dubai entitled Sarah Primary School. The early school in Sarah Primary School public school includes grade 1 to 5. There are 486 students. The schooling day incorporates five to seven lessons per 45 minutes each. Overall, 38 female teachers work in the early school with only 5 of them being English teachers. During this academic year and the next year, the school will have huge changes in the teaching and learning policy and curriculums for all subjects because of the efforts of the new Minister of Education who is trying to improve the curriculums and learning in the country.
Therefore, the school has currently faced the need to readdress its English teaching policy for teachers who work in the early school to guide their teaching activities with an objective to realize the national priority of educating citizens with proficiency in the English language. Currently, the policy makers are at the first stage of their activity. Their main goal at this stage is to identify the scope of factors that will impact the process of the new policy creation.
They are also focused on elaborating the theoretic framework for the policy development to guide their decision-making. According to Chang (2006,), this approach to the policy development activities has proved to be highly practical because it allows consideration of every key aspect of the future policy.
The school policy-making specialists are primarily guided by the shift in the political and economic interests of the country. Today, the political leadership of the UAE views financing of education as one of the most profitable investments with the long-lasting economic, social, and political value. Stringer and Hourani (2015) have stated that “education reforms and changes to the schooling system have become a priority for desirable sustainable development” (p. 224).
The latest Ministry of Education Strategy 2010-2020 targets “delivering a student-centered model focused on improving students’ outcomes, school life, and equality to meet world-class standards as well as promoting national identity” (World data on education 2011, p. 2). According to Al-Awidi and Ismail (2014), “improving English language skills at all levels of education is a top priority for the United Arab Emirates” (p. 29).
The importance of proficiency in English for the UAE citizens is explained by the fact that the country aims at further facilitation of its connections with the leading countries in the world community, as well as it intends to continue to succeed in the technological, international trade including textile and luxury goods, and tourist industries growth (Stringer & Hourani 2015). For the excellent performance in the priority areas identified above, the country needs the workforce with the excellent skills in English. Therefore, the UAE has set the national priority of intense studying English at all levels of education.
Al-Awidi and Ismail (2014) explain the implications of these political and economic trends for the English language studies in the following statement, “the new approach emphasizes the teaching of English as a second language (ESL) for young children and the creation of bilingual students” (p. 29). Judging from this comment, the new educational objective the professionals in English teaching should strive to put into practice is rising the bilingual generation of learners with equal language proficiency skills in both Arabic and English. The purposed outcome is that children starting from the early age will be able to understand, read, speak, and write in both Arabic and English interchangeably.
Identification and Analysis of the Factors That Are Likely To Influence the Process of the Policy Development
The Sarah Primary School public school intends to develop the new educational policy for teachers who teach English in the early school. The need for this change is explained by the two main reasons. First of all, the school leadership has come up with the new educational strategy based on the growing need to prepare the quality workforce that will be able to have the advanced skills in English. Second, the school leaders have received guidance from the ministry of education of the UAE as for the importance of intensified English training in the early school that is justified by the scholarly findings demonstrating that this age category is the most receptive audience with the increased capacity to master essential skills in English.
The school leadership responsible for the elaboration of the new policy regulating teaching of English in the early school has mainly based its approach on the findings made in the scholarly work by Cooper, Shohamy, and Walters (2001) entitled “New Perspectives And Issues In Educational Language Policy: In Honour Of Bernard Dov Spolsky”. This work provides the theoretic framework for teaching English in the bilingual context. According to Cooper et al. (2001), a bilingual approach to teaching English is “essentially on the practical pedagogic grounds that it goes with the grain of the learners’ experience whereas monolingual teaching goes against it” (p. 16).
The theoretic framework offered in this paper fully corresponds to the objective set by the government that is in rising the bilingual generations of professionals with excellent proficiency both in Arabic and English. In addition, in their work, the school policy makers rely on the theoretic data provided by Al-Awidi and Ismail (2014) in their article ‘Teachers’ perceptions of the use of computer assisted language learning to develop children’s reading skills in English as a second language in the UAE. This paper has focused on the importance of using the cutting-edge technologic solutions for teaching English in the early school.
Contemporary Teaching Strategies That Can Provide the Most Effective Results of English Learning In the Early School
Al-Awidi and Ismail (2014) suggestions have direct implications for elaboration on the new English teaching policy in the Sarah Primary School public school by proposing to integrate technology with an objective to promote the efficacy of language learning instruction. Addressing the factors that impact the policy development process for English language learning in the early school, it is important to note that contemporary education in the UAE is characterized by several important trends that influence the practices of many teachers, and one of them is the increased use of information technologies for instructional purposes in schools and colleges (Al-Awidi & Ismail 2014).
Although, one cannot say that this is an entirely new trend because educators began to use technologies, especially computers more than two decades ago; however, its impact on students’ learning is still worth examining (Al-Awidi & Ismail 2014). Furthermore, it is important to understand how these tools can best support learning and teaching activities in the field of teaching English in the early childhood. This educational trend can be traced to such educational philosophy as experimentalism which emphasizes the idea that an individual should be able to acquire the new skills and knowledge independently.
Al-Awidi and Ismail (2014) have seen the use of the technologic element for making advancement in teaching English as the most effective solution for the complex problem of preparing bilingual professionals with the high proficiency in Arabic and English. They have commented that “one of the key elements of the new school model is to create a technology-rich learning environment for children. This model is expected to enhance teaching and learning and create more interactive environment” (p. 29).
Development of technologies has improved the dissemination of knowledge helping in teaching English in the early school. Educators realized that they could offer many opportunities to students and teachers (Al-Awidi & Ismail 2014). The use of information technology has to achieve several objectives. According to Al-Awidi and Ismail (2014), the most important purpose is to foster learning activities of students and improve their acquisition of knowledge and skills.
To a great extent, they should support independent studies and make them more engaging. They should know how to pursue education in informal settings. Moreover, information technologies can significantly improve instructional activities of teachers who should be able to use various methods in the classroom (Al-Awidi & Ismail 2014). In addition, these tools should lead to the better organization of students’ work (Al-Awidi & Ismail 2014).
These are the main rationale for the wide adoption of technologies in the context of the public school under consideration in this project. This tendency has become particularly important when students can learn only in an online environment without meeting instructors in person. To a great extent, the adoption of technology has produced beneficial impacts on the instructional strategies of many teachers.
Use of computer technologies presents an environment for solving multiple tasks in teaching English including “doing presentation, assisting students, evaluating materials, and promoting interaction” and to do so “in a more interactive and engaging manner” that allows attaining new achievements in developing children’s cognitive abilities (Al-Awidi & Ismail 2014, p. 30). Information technologies can be used by teachers and students in different ways to realize the goal of entering the new level of proficiency and effectiveness in teaching and learning English. First of all, they are adopted for the development of exercises that are designed to “test learners’ progress and help them acquire new skills” (Volante 2012, p. 97).
For instance, there are numerous “online quizzes and tests that students can be asked to complete during or after classes” (Volante 2012, p. 97). This form of assessment can benefit both educators and learners. Additionally, information technologies support the presentation of material during classes. With their help, educators can better “introduce and explain new topics or concepts” (Volante 2012, p. 97). Modern teachers can also use Internet resources or files during lectures in order to make their explanations more interesting. Additionally, they are used to create the new learning environments that could not exist at the beginning or in the middle of the twentieth century.
For instance, one can speak about distance education. It is particularly suitable for the needs of people who cannot attend classes in person (Volante 2012). Apart from that, the use of information technologies has changed the relationships between student and teachers who can often interact without face-to-face contacts by using email (Volante 2012). These are the ways in which information technologies are currently used by educators and learners in various fields including language studies. One can say that they have made educational process much more dynamic and productive.
Moreover, due to this tendency, instructional methods became more elaborated because teachers have to find ways of incorporating technologies in the classroom activities. It is quite possible that in the future, teachers will find new applications to these tools that offer many benefits to many stakeholders.
The increased emphasis on technology brings several benefits to teachers and students. First of all, this approach gives students more autonomy and wider opportunities for independent learning. For instance, they can access learning materials such as lecture notes, PowerPoint presentations, and other handouts that can help them get a better understanding of the material. “When children start to understand the way of using computers, they unintentionally learn a large amount of technical vocabulary” and children learn how to “identify the letters of the alphabet on the keyboard and in electronic programs“ (Al-Awidi & Ismail 2014, p. 32).
Furthermore, the use of multi-media is beneficial because in this way, teachers can meet the needs of students with different learning styles (Volante 2012). Some of them can rely on visual aids while others prefer to communicate with the teacher and discuss the most complicated questions. By adopting multi-media technologies, teachers enhance learning experiences of students some of whom can have disabilities (Bailey & Damerow 2014).
This is another benefit that one should not overlook when speaking about these tools. Apart from that, these technologies enable students to test their knowledge and progress. With the help of online tests and quizzes, they can evaluate their performance without the assistance of a teacher. As it has been said before, online technologies can support independent studies of learners, who can do readings and exercises. Thus, learners can become more autonomous due to the development of information technologies. This is another point that one can make.
This model is of great use to teachers as well. In particular, they can design new exercises for learners and these tasks can be more engaging (Volante 2012). By relying on computers, educators can better explain new topics or ideas more clearly. Use of contemporary IT solutions “may present any type of auditory or visual materials including text-to-speech, voice recognition, animation, music, sound effects, and linked cartoon videos to increase not only background knowledge but also vocabulary” (Al-Awidi & Ismail 2014, p. 32). Finally, teachers can foster cooperative projects that can involve individuals living in different locations. These are some of the main improvements that this approach can bring to different stakeholders.
Teachers’ Professionalism Impacts English Learning In the Early School and Helps them Remove the Existing Barriers
According to Al-Awidi and Ismail (2014), use of the latest technologic solutions for teaching English in children’s classroom settings requires proficient teachers capable of using various technologic tools and solutions in these settings. The success of any English teaching instruction program fully depends on the presence of knowledgeable, dedicated, and fresh thinking teachers (Bailey & Damerow 2014).
To be able to translate their technologic importance beliefs and perceptions into instructional practices, “teachers need to acknowledge the potential of technology in language learning and they also need to provide children with all kinds of experience to enhance their language skills teachers’ application of computers depends on their perceptions of technology” (Al-Awidi & Ismail 2014, p. 31). They also need excellent skills of using computer software properly because this allows children’s progress in various areas related to the language studies such as long term memory, cognitive skills, motor skills, social skills, verbal and nonverbal skills, conceptual skills, intelligence, problem solving, and abstraction (Bailey & Damerow 2014).
To match the requirements set by the government, teachers should continuously work on upgrading their assessment methods and instructional techniques. On the whole, wide adoption of technologies in the English classroom sets the new standards for teachers, who should have experience in various fields of instructional design since the inability of teachers to change their instructional methods often results in the slow adoption of new educational directives (Bailey & Damerow 2014).
Apart from that, one should not assume that computer-aided instruction can diminish the role of teachers who should facilitate the activities of students and support their group work. On the contrary, the role of a teacher in the technologic context as a mentor and administrator of the learning process is crucial (Bailey & Damerow 2014). Therefore, these professionals have to acquire the new skills, professional qualities, and competencies in order to become effective (Volante 2012).
As a result, they will become facilitators of students’ learning progress by becoming more professional in terms of using new technology and having ability to inspire their students to enter the new level of mastership. As one of the main objectives in contemporary teaching is teacher’s ability to facilitate the learning process as teamwork, it is a must for teachers to ensure that they possess excellent leadership qualities such the ability to inspire, envision, manage conflicts, and establish the healthy atmosphere among the students as cooperators in the process of mastering new skills and knowledge (Bailey & Damerow 2014).
Moreover, the learning environments organized by teachers are to be developmentally appropriate, celebrating diversity, and promoting creativity (Bailey & Damerow 2014). TO meet all these goals, and objectives, modern teachers of English in the early school need additional training and continuous self-development practices (Bailey & Damerow 2014).
There are more barriers to effective teaching of English in the early childhood that amount to children’s psychological peculators. Children need to be engaged and interested. They find it hard to be focused on the activities that are hard to perform, provide few opportunities for feedback interchange, and little emotional support through commendation (Bailey & Damerow 2014). According to Al-Awidi and Ismail (2014), these barriers can be removed with the use of IT technologies as it can be noticed from the following comment, “computers are capable of presenting activities that are interesting and motivational to children, including the use of pictorial displays and positive feedback’ (p. 33).
Also, “reading programs can help novice and intermediate children in early ages gain fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension; they attract children’s attention and create mental images that help improve recall, and retention of information being learned” (Al-Awidi & Ismail 2014, p. 33). One more solution is as follows, with the use of IT solutions, “children are exposed to native speakers’ models to enhance correct pronunciation” and have opportunities to “to read and practice their linguistic skills with adequate confidence, speed, and productivity” (Al-Awidi & Ismail 2014, p. 33).
Personal Reflections on the Appropriateness of the Chosen Strategy for the New Policy Development
Reflecting on the intended policy change and the probability of its effectiveness in the context of the Sarah Primary School public school, it is necessary to state that the activities performed by the policy makers so far fully correspond to the directives provided by the government and recommendations offered by scholars on effective English teaching. Based on the theoretic guidance provided by Chang (2006), such approach to the policy development is effective and fully justified.
The trends in the activity of the school policy makers have several importance characteristics. First of all, they reflect the principles of education philosophy called experimentalism which is very popular among many teachers and scholars (Chang 2006). This philosophy implies that the world is the place of everlasting change and an individual should continuously acquire new knowledge and skills (Chang 2006).
This is an important principle of experimentalism. Additionally, this philosophy implies that students should be involved in the discovery of knowledge and independent learning which would facilitate their cognitive abilities during language learning (Bailey & Damerow 2014). The goal postulated by the supporters of experimentalism can be best achieved if students have the access to the information technologies and various sources of information.
Moreover, teachers should be able to incorporate multi-media technologies into classroom activities (Bailey & Damerow 2014). These are the main principles, underlying the use of technologies in the classroom. Having these opportunities, teachers can also use various instructional methods. This is another peculiarity that should not be overlooked. IT technologies use is advocated by many scholars who think that in this way, the interaction between educators and learners can be made more productive (Bailey & Damerow 2014).
However, one should bear in mind that this model can yield expected results if educators can skillfully combine new technologies with conventional instructional methods. Still, it is very likely that the role of technology-aided instruction in the area of English language studies will only increase in the future.
In conclusion, it should be pointed out that acquiring proficiency in English at all levels of education is a top interest and primary objective for the education specialists in the UAE. The key significance of proficiency in English for the citizens of the country is explained by the fact that the UAE aims at further facilitation of its connections with the leading countries in the world community and intends to occupy the leading positions at the world arena in the technological, international trade including textile and luxury goods, and tourist industries.
For the excellent performance in the priority areas identified above, the country needs the workforce with excellent skills in English. Therefore, the UAE has set the national priority of intense studying English at all levels of education. The purposed outcome is that children starting from the early age will be able to understand, read, speak, and write in both Arabic and English interchangeably.
Translation of English language learning in early school into a precise set of policy statements in the context of a public school in Dubai entitled Sarah Primary School requires a multi-angled approach that would take into consideration the most important aspects of using the cutting-edge IT technologies along with the latest findings helping teachers achieve the ultimate educational results. Provided that these issues are properly addressed by teachers, their work will be much more productive.
Evaluating the strategy that the policy-makers in my school have chosen for the new policy development for guiding teaching English in the early school, it is necessary to note that their approach fully corresponds to the theoretic findings observed during this course since the specialists base their work on the country’s political conjuncture, consult the latest guidelines by the UAE Ministry of Education, and incorporate the latest scholarly and technological solutions.
The policy makers proceed through all policy development stages identified in the scholarly literature we have observed during this course including evaluating, formulating objectives, identifying alternative solutions, evaluating options, and deciding. At that, the stage of implementing is not reached by them so far, and therefore, it is not applicable in terms of this analysis. Addressing each aspect specifically, the policy that is being developed fully meets political, social, economic, and cultural needs that the current historic context the UAE is currently found in places on it.
Next, the policy makers have performed analysis of the conjuncture for the policy development in accordance to the high standards of this practice including the definition of baseline data, English teaching in early school sector analysis, analytical researchers available on the topic, and monitoring current scholarly studies on the subject. Furthermore, they have fully met the criterion of resource analysis by evaluating the technologic resources available for the initiative realization along with the human resources available to realize the new objectives of the policy being elaborated.
Overall, the new policy on teaching English in the early school redesigned by the policy-making specialists in the public school where I am employed can be evaluated as highly effective and matching all currently existing standards for this procedure.
Al-Awidi, H & Ismail, S 2014, ‘Teachers’ perceptions of the use of computer assisted language learning to develop children’s reading skills in English as a second language in the United Arab Emirates,’ Early Childhood Education Journal, vol. 42, no.1, pp. 29-37.
Bailey, K & Damerow, R 2014, Teaching and learning English in the Arabic-speaking world, Routledge, London.
Chang, G 2006, Education policies and strategies. National Education sector development plan: A result-based planning handbook, UNESCO, Paris.
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Kharkhurin, A 2015, ‘Introducing bilingual creative education to the UAE school curriculum’. In Mental Health and Psychological Practice in the United Arab Emirates (pp. 199-209). Palgrave Macmillan, New York.
Stringer, P & Hourani, R 2015, ‘Transformation of roles and responsibilities of principals in times of change,’ Educational Management Administration & Leadership, vol. 44, no. 2, pp. 224-246.
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