Monday, February 13, 2012

"There must be some kind of way out of here", said the joker to the thief (Zimmy)

The National had a story recently (today actually) headed up Pupils shine in new school system’, with an exciting sub heading, 'Scores up by 32%'.

Okay, I thought, maybe they’ve cracked it - a miraculous new way to achieve improvements in student achievement. Right here in the UAE, Dubai to be specific; 18 schools in Dubai under a ‘Schools for the future’ banner to be even more precise. No more agonizing over data. No more angst. No more teachers' dirty looks. A simple solution. 

Yeah right!
Turns out all that we need to do is teach in English and - hey presto – instant success!

Sorry to be so sniffy but…hello!! If you want students to become better at English and get into university here without doing a foundation English course – then the longer you expose the students to English the better, right?
But hang on – they’ve only been doing this for four years in this trial of 18 schools in Dubai (teaching English, mathematics and science in English). How can that time frame, even with a massive injection of resources and funds to those 18 schools, in a small number of subjects, result in increased results by 32%? Easy – you start near zero!
According to The National – improvements in test scores came from the use of new teaching methods, multimedia, new textbooks and added preparation by the teachers.

Someone alert John Hattie and Michael Fullan! Lack of technology, old books, outdated teaching methods and slacker teachers are the problem! Those are the correct drivers...right? Well no, they are not. Not even close!
It’s also interesting that the same edition of The National included an editorial about ‘the cheating culture’ in education here. The editorial bemoans the ‘largely guilt-free trend with officials accusing students, and even teachers, of generally being tolerant of…plagiarism’.

[This editorial followed a recent story about how students are using technology to cheat;]
It seems the cheating culture ‘is seeping into the system as early as kindergarten level'.

So, sadly I have to report that it looks like there is no silver bullet to be found in Dubai's educational adventureland.

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