The challenge of preserving local culture and heritage in an increasingly cosmopolitan Emirate is being overcome by the Dubai-based school, Dar al Marefa.
The increasing internationalisation of education, as well as international school curricula and diverse student bodies, often result in a lack of understanding and appreciation for the country’s history and context among teachers and students.
Mirdiff-based Dar al Marefa, which was recently awarded the prestigious International Baccalaureate (IB) certification, currently teaches both an International and national curriculum with a special focus on Islamic Education, local culture and heritage.
In a bid to uphold the IB mandate of nurturing international mindedness and a strong sense of self-identity, the school has commissioned Razi Education, a UAE based education and training firm, to train all of the school’s local and expatriate teachers in making cultural connections that are real, relevant, and engaging to pupils.
Aligned with the aspirations of the Ministry of Education and the standards of KHDA and ADEC, the ideas being championed by Dar al Marefa are transformative: the more culturally relevant the teaching, the more students will be engaged in learning and the higher their academic achievement. Secondly, the more confident expat teachers feel about local culture and heritage, the more teacher confidence and retention will increase. Lastly, the more engaged students are in learning, the more parents are satisfied with their investment in education.
With three months of the year-long training program complete, Principal Shirine Al Khudari, says the results have been profound.
"Our mission and vision is to develop lifelong learners who are rooted in their own culture and identity and hence open to join the world," she said.
"To achieve that, our teachers need to be confident and creative practitioners who will be able to teach the Arabic language and Islamic Education through up-to-date best teaching practice and pedagogy.
"Razi has been able to train our staff in teaching Arabic and Islamic Education through continuous rigorous training to deliver teaching through best practice.
"They have also been able to train our foreign, non Muslim staff in how to relate learning in all subjects to the national culture and heritage and make connections with Islamic Education.
"Not only has this training helped raise teaching and learning standards, but it has also brought joint respect and understanding between all members of the Dar al Marefa community."
Dr Nadeem Memon, Director of Education at Razi Education, said: "This approach of a year-long professional development program grounded in quality standards for a rich culturally relevant teaching experience is ground breaking in the UAE.
"Such a sustained professional development approach serves to reinforce national educational aspirations of preparing students for 21stcentury learning that is collaborative, inquiry-based, and built on lived experience.
"Some schools provide the odd workshop on the teaching culture of the UAE, but Dar al Marefa is a trend setter in the region in championing the importance of local culture and heritage for strong student identity.
"A globally minded education begins with knowing yourself first and teaching students about UAE heritage and culture in a way that is engaging and relevant and will nurture appreciation for the world around them. Our training and mentoring prepare teachers to help gain values of open mindedness, cultural awareness, understanding, and sensitivity of ourselves and the diversity around us all.
“The results are already apparent. Dar al Marefa’s teachers and administrators have told us that they’re seeing clear results in the classroom. Students are responding well to new teaching strategies, and teachers are more confident in addressing the unique cultural needs of Dar al Marefa’s students."
For more information about Razi Education professional development solutions, visit their website at www.razieducation.com.
For more information about Dar al Marefa’s unique approach to culturally relevant teaching, visit their website at www.daralmarefa.ae