Major educational shake-up proposed in Bahrain

The proposal aims to elevate the country’s education in line with international modern developments in the field

  
Students class. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Students class. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Getty Images

MANAMA: A proposal to shake up education in Bahrain – with the Finnish Schools Experiment being taken as a model – has been tabled by MPs.

The proposal – spearheaded by Parliament Speaker Fouzia Zainal and supported by four other MPS – aims to elevate the country’s education in line with international modern developments in the field.

Finland’s education system is unique with it having shorter school days than seen in other advanced nations and no standardised tests or homework for children, the latter of which has already been taken up by schools across Bahrain.

“Education is the first pillar in any country’s progress and development and Bahrain has been a regional pioneer with its formal introduction more than 100 years ago,” said Ms Zainal.

“Bahrain has advanced over the years in the field of providing solid education for its children and His Majesty King Hamad Future Schools’ Project has taken conventional education to interactive and effective modern heights.

Creativity

“However, education should create competitiveness and creativity – not just in learning but also present life tools and help students reach their full potential in all areas.

“We need to look again at what we are providing and introduce best practice and continue to be innovative in everything we do for future generations."

The ambitious Finnish National Agency for Education’s stated goal for basic education is ‘to support students’ growth towards humanity and ethically-responsible membership of society and to provide them with the knowledge and skills needed in life’.

It aims to continuously evaluate student progress and needs, and even be flexible enough to set daily and weekly timetables rather than a regimented structured term-long approach.

Ms Zainal said conventional teaching, which remains in practice in the kingdom, is facing huge challenges to achieve its targets of helping students become ready, able and fully equipped for the workplace and to allow them to make a positive contribution to society.

“The challenges being faced are enormous and rapidly changing with technology arriving at a pace. This isn’t a criticism of what we are doing, just an observation and highlighting the need to continually improve what we offer. It may require a massive shake-up to training and teaching methods and curricula alongside classroom attendance and timings,” she said.

“Even current activities assigned to students, whether at home or in the classroom, must be questioned. Are they effective, smart or are even in the right direction to fine-tune students’ skills.

“Perhaps the standard, conventional ways of education have to be phased out and replaced with something more successful, for example, the Finnish experiment.

”The government is obliged under the Constitution to provide the best basic education for free to students in schools.

“The best education is that which we believe is capable of adapting and adjusting to the demands of the labour market as the utmost goal for those graduating from the learning system,” added Ms Zainal.

The four other MPs backing her are first vice-chairman Abdulnabi Salman, services committee chairman Ahmed Al Ansari, Dr Hisham Al Asheeri and Bader Al Dossary.

Ms Zainal referred the proposal yesterday to the services committee for review with relevant ministries and government authorities.

“Education in the country appears to be stalled and we urgently need to progress to match world advancements,” said Mr Al Dossary.

“The same knowledge that students get in nursery and kindergarten regarding the alphabet and numbers is the same given to them in grade six. It’s a continuous loop with little or no advancement and nothing new.

“In my opinion many students are failing to relate to what they are being taught in mathematics, science, languages and even physical education with real-life expectations,” he added.

Curriculum

“Education needs a shake-up that will take it beyond 2030. We need a wider look at the curriculum and teaching methods to ensure they captivate the students’ hearts and minds and are not boring. The current lengthy lecture format is repetitive and perhaps irrelevant to life and opportunities.”

Mr Al Dossary said he is also an admirer of the Finnish system.

“Students love our educational book characters like Amer and his sister Amal but have they ever been turned into multi-dimensional learning aids?”

Education Minister Dr Majid Al Nuaimi told MPs in April that his office was looking into the future of education and planned to introduce new textbooks on robotics in the next school year.

These include Raspberry Pi and Digital Electronics for high school students, in addition to an introduction to robotics, robots, creative programming and digital electronics for intermediate students.

MPs also in April unanimously approved a new law to streamline online education. It has been recommended by Parliament’s services committee, despite the ministries of Education, and Labour and Social Development deeming it unnecessary.

The authorities have said that e-learning and training are already regulated under existing legislation.

However, the new law has been backed by the Education and Training Quality Authority (BQA), the Bahrain Polytechnic and the Applied Science University, though they have sought amendments to include private schools in the framework.

The proposal, also spearheaded by Ms Zainal, is being drafted into a proper law and will be presented by the government within six months.

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