Is the standard of Arabic low?

By: Lakshmi Kothaneth

MUSCAT: The question on Arabic standard arises while students are assessed and education experts point out that one of the most challenges in assessing is the increasing dependency on colloquial Arabic spoken among youngsters.

The Ministry of Education is taking the initiative to encourage teachers to speak classic Arabic in classrooms of public schools. Educational researcher, Abdullah bin Hamood al Rashdi, Ministry of Education, said, “We have Arabic subjects in the classrooms. Local Arabic is spoken at home, which is different from what they have to use in written exams. Classic Arabic has to be applied by both teachers and students.

Speaking classic Arabic in classrooms is a form of integration, said Al Rashdi, adding that the problem can be diagnosed when a student can answer the question verbally but cannot convey his answers in the written form. “In a written test the student might give a blank paper or provide an incorrect answer because he simply did not understand the question.”

While the popular usage of colloquial Arabic is a trend among youth, the terminologies that appear in question papers are from formal Arabic. Many students shy away from the classic Arabic language claiming it to be difficult to master.

“This can affect the assessment of the students and in the process of student evaluation. If the teachers cannot evaluate right it can lead to other problems,” he added.

Rashid al Jabry has four of his children in public schools. “I find the public schools for girls are in more control than the public schools for boys. The best way is for parents to be involved in the study process of their children.”

When you take it easy with formal Arabic, life can be tough says Ibtisam al Hinai. “Twenty years ago, while I was studying in a public school we were using simple Arabic. I must admit my written Arabic is not very strong. I shied away from writing and found it difficult when I had to write essays and compositions in schools. Arabic vocabulary and grammar is vast. We do understand it but we do not apply classic Arabic.”

Over the years the Sultanate of Oman Television and Radio as a policy has applied classic Arabic in particular for broadcasting news. However today the youth have access to a variety of media with the onset of technology, said the educational expert.

“Students today watch two to three hours of television programmes from any channel across the region or globe. They use smart phones and tabs. Parents need to spend time with children while they are studying to make sure they are reading right. Parents also need to meet teachers and at the same time make sure they use classic Arabic at home too more frequently,” explained Al Rashdi.

Ali al Matani, a media expert, is of the opinion that the teaching method of classic Arabic which is being applied is not up to date. “The method of teaching is not attractive for the students. There is not much of technology. The classic method of teaching Arabic is still in use. There is a generation gap and we need to attract the current students,” pointed out Ali Matani.

The challenge is to increase the motivation in children, agree the expert at the Ministry of Education. “Children have many attractions and teachers have to find a way to engage the student’s attention. Students have to participate in the learning process,” said the educational researcher. The average number of students in a classroom is 30-35. We have curriculum, assessment of students, teacher’s performance, school structures and parents. They are all part of the learning process. We cannot blame any one of the links, but we have to constantly diagnose and analyse.

“All the efforts by the Ministry of Education are translated into the teacher’s performance in the class room. Teacher’s motivation is also extremely important as they also want students to pay attention to what they are teaching,” added Al Rashdi. In regard to low-performing students, the educational researcher said, “Low-performing students are a challenge to teachers and as a matter of fact teachers should pay more attention to them. They need to be inspired. Low-performing students might not participate in the typical class scenario, which makes it difficult to know if they are following the lessons or not. It is learning by doing. Teachers have to give the guidance but find innovative ways to keep them engaged in the classroom learning activities.”

According to educational experts, one of the biggest challenges in assessing students’ Arabic proficiency is their increasing dependency on colloquial Arabic spoken amongst youngsters.


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