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Emiratis prefer private schools, but fear losing touch with culture

Published: 28/04/2014 04:26:14 PM GMT
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Sunday, Apr 27, 2014Dubai: The quality of education and better English language skills draw Emiratis to private schools, but they (more)

Sunday, Apr 27, 2014

Dubai: The quality of education and better English language skills draw Emiratis to private schools, but they admit that this comes at the cost of losing touch with their culture.

A Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) study titled ‘In search of a good education’, highlights the reasons why 50 per cent of Emirati parents surveyed prefer private education despite public schools in the UAE offering free education to Emiratis.

Of the Emirati parents surveyed, 22 per cent believed that private schools offer better English language instruction.

Asma Al Qaseer, an Emirati, who studied in a private school in Sharjah from kindergarten to grade 12, agreed with the survey’s findings. “My parents believed that a private school would provide me with a better education in a sense that I would be able to speak English fluently and be able to enter a university of my choice,” she said.

Asma’s parents went to public schools and she said they were barely able to converse in English, which is why they wanted to provide her with what they didn’t have.

In Dubai, there are more Emiratis enrolled in private rather than public schools. Another KHDA report published earlier this month found that almost 60 per cent of Emiratis (30,994 students) are enrolled in private schools in Dubai.

Asma believes that the private school she attended provided her with stronger bilingual skills and an understanding of world cultures. She admitted, however, that she lost the advantages she would have had in a public school. “A public school’s strengths include stronger Arabic skills and a better understanding of the UAE culture because public schools celebrate National Day and other Emirati events.”

Nevertheless, Asma said that when she has children, she will enrol them in private schools to make sure they get a good education in English.

Ahmad Bin Al Shaikh, another Emirati, said studying in a private school allows him to be exposed to a wide range of cultures and a mixed-gender environment, which made him open-minded.

Al Shaikh believes that the only advantage of attending a public school is that education is free. Public schools usually provide low-quality education, lack of multiculturalism and one way of thinking, he said. “Private schools provide great education, multiculturalism, critical thinking,” he added. Al Shaikh, however, admitted that the price Emiratis pay is losing touch with their own culture and blending with other cultures that sometimes do not adhere to Emirati social and cultural norms.

Sara Al Ali, another Emirati who graduated from a private school, said her education allowed her to graduate from university with ease. “I graduated from a private school and now my son is enrolled in one as well. I believe it provides a great education. The only thing is that my son is using words and accents from other Arab culture instead of his own.”

Sara fears that her son is moving away from her culture, but her husband makes sure he takes him to Emirati social gatherings.

By Noor Nazzal Staff Reporter

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