The government of Sharjah is spending Dh90 million to upgrade 46 schools in the emirate.
The money will be used to build infrastructure including theatre halls and computer labs as all primary government campuses in Sharjah move to the Model School system, which has shown results by providing a more rigorous and stimulating environment than regular state schools.
Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed, Ruler of Sharjah, ordered the move, which will affect 13,000 pupils in the first phase of upgrades when classes resume in September.
"Schools must be improved right from teacher quality to the facilities," said Mona Suhail, deputy director of the Sharjah Education Zone. "Teaching will not be textbook-based and there will be an emphasis on more activities and sports for the pupils."
"These are big changes and teachers will need to be retrained to understand and work towards these objectives," Ms Suhail said.
Model Schools were introduced to the country in 1994. Six of the 79 state schools in the emirate currently follow the model system, which aims to strengthen pupils' abilities and instil community values and career drive. The schools also follow a stringent enrolment process and select high-performing pupils.
The results achieved at Model Schools have led to an increase in demand at such campuses among parents in the last few years. The schools used to charge fees but many emirates, including Sharjah, recently cancelled the cost to Emirati parents.
The federal Minister of Education, Humaid Mohammed Obaid Al Qattami, has issued a decree to set up a committee to implement the changes. The committee consists of the Sharjah Education Zone, the Sharjah Education Council and the Sharjah Education Office.
Feedback was sought from school principals on the changes required before the decision was made. Responding to questionnaires distributed by the authority, educators said they lacked laboratories, proper bus and car park areas and multipurpose halls.
The Dh90m budget will be used to revamp the schools' infrastructure by building facilities such as clinics, canteens and extra-curricular activity rooms. Upgrades will also include construction of proper pathways and roads near the school, shaded areas on campus, theatre halls, sports ground and, computer labs. Other technology and equipment to aid teaching will be provided.
Ms Suhail said teachers will undergo training, conducted by the University of Sharjah, to apply the pupil-centred model.
An English supervisor in Sharjah praised Model Schools.
"The school environment is very different and pupils seem more motivated to learn in these schools," said the supervisor, who did not wish to be named.
"Just entering the classroom you can see the difference between the traditional schools and the model ones. There is more equipment and teachers are always using multimedia presentations and PowerPoint to explain their lessons."
He said the pupils were more engaged in activities and received projects for group work.
A third system of government schooling exists in Dubai and the Northern Emirate. This system, known as Madaras Al Ghad (Schools of Tomorrow), takes the Model School system a step further by focusing on bilingual education.
Madaras Al Ghad began in 44 public schools in 2007, with about 18,000 pupils.
The English supervisor from a Sharjah school said the ministry should consider developing a standard system that includes the benefits of both initiatives: "That way every child will get an equal opportunity to hone abilities and be bilingual, which is very necessary for tertiary education."
From: The National