Teachers who focus on to real-life communications skills hold the key to raising standards of English in the Emirates, according to a department of Cambridge University. Speaking in the run up to a one day conference on student-centred learning in Abu Dhabi next week, The University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations – who set and develop leading English language tests – says that many schools in the region are already using this approach effectively.
“By nature, learning English is an interactive activity and all of our tests have been specifically designed to reflect this,” explains Dr Mike Milanovic, Chief Executive of Cambridge ESOL. “Successful language learning must lead to knowing how to communicate in real-life situations and we’re seeing very encouraging school projects in the United Arab Emirates where teachers are designing classroom activities with this particular focus.”
The forthcoming event “Towards a student centred classroom” has been organised by the University of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) and Cambridge ESOL under the patronage of Abu Dhabi Educational Council (ADEC). It will be held on the 15 March in Abu Dhabi and will bring together 300 delegates made up of Principals, Vice-Principals, Heads of Department, Directors of Studies and representatives from ADEC and the British Council.
The Al Afaq Model School in Abu Dhabi is one example of how student-centred learning is successfully working in the region. The girls' school adopted tests for young learners set by Cambridge to raise the level of their students in March 2005 and as a result have been able to measure the progress of their students and adjust their school language programme accordingly.
Aminah Al Ameri, Education Advisor at the school, explains the importance of international standards:
“Gaining an internationally recognised certificate bearing the name of Cambridge University of course also has its advantages. Students know that they have achieved an international grading and feel a great sense of pride about their achievements”.
Dr Milanovic concludes: “As education becomes more international so does the importance of using frameworks that reflect progress in relation to global standards. In this context Cambridge exams will prove extremely helpful to education programmes in the Emirates in general and for English language in particular”.