Education usually takes place in many forms depending on the purpose through the many institutions. Educational policy is meant to guide reforms or programmes in the education system of a nation or an institution. Education policy therefore is a collection of laws as well as rules intended to govern the processes of an education system.
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Since education policy affects the education outcome of those involved in the education system, the areas of debate in an education policy normally include the curricular content; teaching content as well as graduation requirements among other areas (Stevenson 2060, 21).
Many countries have always come up with new education policies with an aim of reforming particular areas of their education system. For example, the National Curriculum education reform act of 1988 in England led to the creation of a unified and balanced curriculum (Stevenson 2060, 49).
The education policy analysis seeks to find the answers to questions on the purpose of the policy as well as the objectives it is supposed to achieve. The analysis also involves methods of attaining the objectives and the benchmarks for measuring the success or failure of the programme.
In the United Arab Emirates, it is mandatory for private schools to teach Muslim pupils Islamic education (United Arab Emirates (a) 2007). This law was adopted in 1972 (Daair 1987, 15) and became permanent in 1996 (United Arab Emirates (b) 2000). It was mainly advocated for by the native Muslim groups and the political class considering that larger majority of the population in the country are Muslims.
This is compulsory to all the types of schools that exist in UAE including the public, Arabic private as well as the foreign private schools. The course is compulsory to all learners up to grade 12 and the curriculum is decided upon by the ministry of education. It is compulsory to all Muslim pupils including those who speak Arabic and those who do not; however, it is optional for non-Muslims.
The language of instruction is Arabic except for the non-Arab students who are taught Islamic Education through English medium (Ali 2010). The aim of teaching Islamic education to all Muslim learners is to enable them acquire Islamic culture and principles. They are also taught how to worship. This is meant to improve their understanding of the Islamic religion.
According to the Ministry of Education and Youth’s second goal, they aim to reinforce the national, Arab as well as Islamic feeling. It also aims to strengthen cultural identity among the Muslim individuals. The Ministry of education and Youth supervises and provides guidelines to the program (Gardner 1995, 289).
In Article 3 of the Ministry of Education and Youth policy regarding the compulsory subjects in UAE schools, it is a requirement that any private school that has an Arab Muslim student provides Islamic education to the student(s) using books recommended by the Ministry.
They are mandated by the Ministry of Education and Youth to teach 3 lessons of Islamic studies per week to pupils between grade one and three after which they provide a minimum of two lessons per week up to grade 12. The timetable for teaching Islamic studies is well structured in the curriculum and each lesson takes 30 minutes.
The non-Arabic students’ timetable begins on Sunday through to Thursday while that of the Arabic students begin on Monday through to Thursday. According to the Board of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority in Dubai (2009)private schools in the UAE are not permitted to allow Muslim learners to attend any religious classes except for the Islamic religion classes.
Besides, Muslim learners in private schools are not allowed to participate in activities related to non-Islamic religious classes.
Lack of balance in the policy
The purpose for the implementation of the policy is good as it ensures continuity of Muslim culture, traditions and principles across generations. However, in implementing the programme, the stakeholders of the UAE education system did not balance the curriculum. Non-Muslim learners always have unnecessary free time during learning periods each time there is Islamic studies.
The policy did not consider the religious diversity in the UAE schools. In many countries, including both Christian and Muslim countries, religious education is provided and made compulsory to the learners, but is made part of the curriculum and drawn in the timetable as religious studies so that during that time all learners can be taught their respective religious studies.
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Some countries such England teaches religious education that integrates contents from different religions. This ensures that no learner is left idle during the learning periods and also ensures that each learner acquires knowledge and experience about his or her religion, culture and traditions.
Considering that only 20% of the population are UAE natives while the rest comprise of people from different nations from all the continents and that the country was colonized by the British, the education authorities, stakeholders and the ministry should be aware of the multi-religious setting in the schools.
According to the Ministry of Education’s ninth goal, it aims to diversify educational opportunities to learners in regards to the teachers’ capabilities (United Arab Emirates (b) 2000). By implementing and making Islamic education compulsory to all Muslim learners and leaving out the non-Muslim learners, it contradicts its diversification goal.
Providing Islamic education to Muslim learners while offering no option to the other religions is discriminative, and contravenes its fifth goal which aims at ensuring equal education opportunities for everyone (United Arab Emirates (b) 2000).
Lack of involvement
The development process of the education policy did not involve all stakeholders of education particularly in the formulation of the policy and the education programme. It only involved few elite, the political class, Islamic radicals and the religious leaders. The private schools including the foreign private schools were not involved in the formulation process, yet they are the ones implementing the programme.
The private schools have been fighting for a long time to be included in formulation of policies and in decision making of important educational issues that affect education in the country (United Arab Emirates (a) 2007). This means that they do not perfectly understand the objectives to be achieved by implementing the programme.
The implementation processes can only be successful if those mandated to implement the program clearly understand the expectations of the formulator. They therefore know the inputs and what they are supposed to contribute to the programme implementation to achieve the expectations.
The involvement of programme implementers in the formulation process makes them understand why and how the outputs are supposed to deliver the educational outcomes sought for. Since the private schools were not involved in the policy-making process, they really do not feel to be part of the programme.
Some private schools may therefore just provide the programme because it is in the curriculum and not bother whether they are achieving the goals set by the Ministry of Education and Youth or not.
Inadequate supervision and lack of commitment
Implementation of the programme has not been perfectly taken care of by the Ministry of Education and Youth. Not all private schools strictly follow the provisions in the curriculum. The implementation process has not taken the same route as is expected by the ministry.
Some schools, especially the foreign private schools which teach different curriculums such as the British National Curriculum provide only one lesson a week for Islamic studies while others provide the normal number of lessons required. The total time for each lesson also differ depending on the curriculum of the school.
This implies that the ministry does not properly supervise the implementation process of the programme since according to the law, the lessons are supposed to be uniform because they are using the same curriculum. Such problems or issues that occur during the implementation process can always be realized through supervision and a proper solution to the problem put into action.
On the other hand, Muslim children lag behind in other subjects since the timetable was drawn without consulting those in charge of the education processes in these private schools. This made it difficult for some foreign private schools to fix their timetables to fit the teaching of Islamic studies.
The ministry drew the timetable and they took it as it is and implemented it without changing the arrangements in their timetables. Muslim children in these private schools therefore have to miss other important lessons including literacy classes to attend Islamic studies. They are sometimes withdrawn from Science, Mathematics or even Physical Education classes to attend the classes.
These schools are more keen on following their curriculum and therefore do not find it necessary to integrate Islamic studies within their school curriculum or timetable since they do not understand the need for creating time for the subject within the timetable.
This shows lack of commitment by some of these foreign private schools and really contravenes the Ministry of Education and Youth’s policy that requires that Islamic studies be integrated in the school curriculum and be treated as an important subject. It means that Muslim children attend Islamic studies but have to gamble with other subjects.
According to United Arab Emirates (a) (2007) Muslim students have to attend Islamic studies since the ministry only authenticates their certificates after providing proof of having learnt Islamic studies as well as Arabic as first their language.
The inability of the Ministry of Education and Youth to correct the behavior of these schools that undermine the policy deprives the Muslim children of their learning opportunities and yet according to the goals of the ministry of education, providing for equal educational opportunities is their duty.
Foreign private schools that only provide for one lesson per week of Islamic studies equally do not treat the subject as important. Considering that the syllabus is the same and the goals of teaching the subject remains uniform across the country, providing for just one lesson per week is undermines the spirit of the policy and the curriculum.
It becomes difficult to complete the syllabus meaning that it is not possible to achieve the general goals of the subject. The Muslim students are therefore denied the opportunity to acquire important Islamic teachings as most of what they are taught in these schools are just highlights of the real content provided for in the syllabus.
Since the knowledge is not reinforced as there is little time for teaching the subject, Muslim learners do not really comprehend the contents learnt. The management of these schools is also not much concerned with evaluation of learning of the subject.
The ministry does not emphasize more on internal evaluation of the learners to check their progress in the subject in relation to the set goals since the schools are only inspected ones per year (Dubai Schools 2011).
To them, Islamic studies is taught because it is a requirement by the government and not because it is supposed to benefit learners. This behavior continues in these schools even though the ministry is in charge of supervision of these schools.
Instructional methods and media
The instructional methods involved in teaching Islamic studies is excellent as it takes care of age of the learners and the system also acknowledges that the Muslim learners are from different linguistic backgrounds. The teaching methods involving lecturing of learners and learners are allowed to ask and answer questions concerning the religion.
The teachers may also invite Islamic leaders to provide more insight into the religion. However, the programme does not take of care Muslim learners who do not speak Arabic or English. Although Arabic language is a compulsory subject in UAE curriculum, it may take quite sometime probably a few years before a learner is able to communicate in the language. There are no bilingual teachers to provide Islamic education to such learners.
The education policy in the UAE making it compulsory for private schools to provide Islamic education to any Muslim learner in the school has good intentions. However, the policy-making process, implementation and evaluation have not been very inclusive.
The programme seems to have been imposed on these schools as most of them are not committed to implementing it. Besides, the Ministry of Education and Youth does not provide thorough supervision to the implementation process providing loopholes for some foreign private schools to ignore the rules of the UAE curriculum.
Ali, M., M., 2010, Islamic studies. Web.
Daair, S., 1987, Education in the United Arab Emirates and the Islamic value- system. Muslim Education Quarterly 5: 15-35. Dubai: Gulf Press.
Dubai Schools, 2011. Schools in Sharjah. Web.
Gardner, W., E., 1995, Developing a quality teaching force for the United Arab Emirates. Journal of Education for Teaching 21 (3): 289-312. Abu Dhabi: Paragan International Publishers.
Stevenson, H., 2006, Education policy: Process, themes and impact. London: Les Bell Publisher. P. 21.
The Board of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority in Dubai, 2009, Order no. (1) of 2009 amending order no. (1) of 2007. Web.
United Arab Emirates (a), 2007, School agency gets commitment from schools. Web.
United Arab Emirates (b), 2000. Report: Part III: Prospects and required changes. Web.