New Yemeni education curriculum considered inferior and backward [Archives:2007/1016/Reportage]

January 15 2007

Saleh Ahmed Al-Shumaily
[email protected]
For Yemen Times

The destruction of the Yemeni education process is due to several factors and causes. Some problems regard the quantity or quality of the curriculum while others include premonitions of a pupil's future because there are no job opportunities and bribes determine the priority of employment.

In the past decade, a new curriculum replaced the old one and despite education critics saying that the old curriculum had more potential than the current one, innovations have occurred. Others praise the new curriculum, but criticize science, which is more practical than theoretical, because most schools don't have laboratories except those in larger cities.

The religious sector declares that important and influential subjects from the old religious curriculum were replaced with topics that predispose teachers and pupils to be open-minded toward Western cultures. For example, they say that Qur'anic verses connected with jihad were deleted.

“There are many misprinted verses of the Qur'an in the new religious curriculum,” says Abdulfatah Hedarh, teacher of the Qur'an and its sciences. Other reading materials suffered the same fate. “In basic education, the stories of Omer Bin Abdulaziz in the eighth grade; Khalid bin Al-Walid in sixth grade and Waesllamma in ninth grade have been removed. The secondary education series of stories about the men around the Prophet [Mohammed] also were deleted,” Islamic teacher Fadhel Al-Dallali notes.

Additionally, the fifth grade geography curriculum in basic education contains information beyond students' mental abilities at that age. “The geography book is so complicated that even the teacher has some ambiguities when preparing lessons,” geography teacher Adel Hassan says.

Difficult topics are framed in mathematical formats of problems dependant upon diagrams, maps and their classification. The authority's team didn't take into consideration that at such levels, most Yemeni students still are unable to read and write legible Arabic. Such diagrams and their mathematical sums seem to better belong to the quality and quantity of breeding or productions.

English educators praise innovations in the English curriculum for the Crescent English Course for Yemen, which harmonizes linguistic changes in technology, the press and transactions involving everyday life.

“Texts with colorful pictures attract students to read and understand new words. The Crescent English Course for Yemen depends on a modern communication method in the field of English language teaching,” Dr. Boss explained in his book on teaching English language in Yemeni schools.

Although English textbooks from grades 1 to 6 include many contemporary and interesting, illustrated topics, teachers in many schools aren't qualified and thus, increasingly play a major role in decreasing students' abilities to do well in school.

Public opinion is that political involvement in the education process reflects a negative attitude toward education. Economics have a hand in snatching students and teachers alike from school seats onto the streets.

Certain English textbooks require changes involving difficult and complicated lessons, especially those in the fourth grade. Such curriculums involve 70 percent conversational lessons, which can be boring for both teachers and learners. Long and prosaic Art Reader topics like “The Telford Hall” create impatience – not in students, but in teachers who want to complete such texts in one class sitting.

Moving from the curriculum's internal to its outer problems, a casual observer on the street is astonished to see a fishmonger folding pieces of fish in pages torn from a chemistry book bearing a 2007 copyright, when students first receive their books a week before mid-year exams.

It's surprising to meet teachers who can't write Crescent English sentences or who write English “Arabic style” from right to left and in a clockwise direction.

Many English teachers also neglect their various tools. “My teacher seldom tells us to use workbooks and he never plays cassettes for listening lessons,” one student comments.

Yemeni schoolteachers take qualifying courses that talented teachers – who know about classroom management, language games and teaching aids such as cards, wall charts and cassettes – would use to develop their students' minds.

Nevertheless, many teachers lack the “teacher's bag” that can facilitate teaching and it's a serious issue when teachers don't read references about English language teaching techniques for the classroom. Thus, all they are then are “walkie-talkies” and their students simply are listeners.

Although inadequate, teacher training courses are up and running in many governorates; however, some teachers return to school with “negative” appreciation because most don't practice what they trained to do, as their aim in attending such courses purely was monetary. Overall, such teachers concentrate on the curriculum's quantity rather than its quality and his or her aim is to run the curriculum according to education ministerial policy, which seems to imply one lesson per day.

“Teaching procedures in training courses are interesting and helpful, but in order to practice them, one needs lots of time. One lesson may require three classes to complete; therefore, I can't go along with the ministerial plan,” Arabic teacher Naser Itran remarks.

At many schools, an observer will find the cart before the horse, with an English teacher teaching Arabic or science. “I've forgotten much of my English because I've been teaching science in grades 1 through 4 of basic education,” English teacher Yahya Gaed of Yarim admits.

In Yemen, the British Council and GTZ do their best to qualify teachers; however, they must send their own supervisors to schools to write reports about trained teachers and their actions. The Ministry of Education must include in its policies courses to qualify teachers by arranging intensive in-service training courses with the British Council and GTZ. It then needs to reward talented and experienced teachers by placing them in deserving posts.

Saleh Ahmed Al-Shumaily is an English teacher in Ibb.