MUSCAT: There is an urgent need to teach Arabic in a more creative way to arrest the waning interest of younger Omanis in their native language.
The younger generation of Omani children can be seen and heard communicating in English, more often than in their mother tongue, and one of the reasons for this could be the Arabic teaching methods employed by teachers, said Basma Al Said, founder of Whispers Serenity.
She is also a mental health counsellor and psychotherapist. Arabic classes, she said, are simply not creative enough to be able to sustain the interest of the students. “English classes were always fun; they were more creative. Arabic classes are a bit ‘dry’ and some of the teachers are not creative in that sense,” she noted.
On why the English has become a more popular language among Omani youth in recent years, she answered, “I would honestly say (it is because of) the way Arabic classes are taught, based on my experience as a student in both government and private schools.”
A college student, Ali Al Zadjali also believed a teacher’s approach is as important as the lesson itself saying, “It (teaching approach) is what got me interested in English, especially when it comes to grammar. The main problem is that the examples portrayed (in Arabic) never feel related so we lose interest.”
Some Arabic teachers are known to make their students memorise their work, rather than understand the same and discuss it with classmates and teachers. “The way it’s taught has sadly always been like that,” Al Said added.
Influence on children
Story books have always had a great influence on children and the youth—from the quality of books to the way they are written.
The story books influence children. But the quality of Arabic books need to be more attractive, said Al Said, adding, “You can see this yourself if you buy a book even as an adult.” She explained that she herself did not consult Arabic books on the subject of her profession due to what she thinks is, “extreme amount of jargon and unattractive approach to the topic.” While she admitted that some authors have tried to bring about a marked improvement in quality, she believes they still have a long way to go.
Ali Al Zadjali also felt that his preferred language, like many others, is English while justifying it by saying, “It’s the international language and despite the fact that I believe Arabic is an important language to maintain fluency in, English will help me communicate better.”
Offering a simple solution, Al Said stated, “The way Arabic is taught should be creative. It’s a big issue so it needs a lot of work. The entire syllabus needs to change; the quality of books needs to be better.”
Adding to Al Said’s solution, Mohammad Mostafa, a retired teacher, who is well known for his teaching methods among the generations of students and has taught for 39 years in the Sultanate said, “The government has come a long way in education and has improved quite significantly through the years, but the Arab curriculum is yet to reach the high standard of quality as seen in other curriculums.”
“When I say the curriculum needs improvement, I mean the subjects that are taught need to interest students and incite debate among them. They will need subjects that they can relate to; not just about the culture and tradition.”
“I’m not saying studying culture and tradition should be eradicated from the curriculum, but we should not be afraid to teach modern subjects in which culture and tradition can be implemented within... the students will be more active and the information will stick to their minds,” he explained further.
He also said in order to strengthen the Arabic language, the student must know how to read and properly pronounce the Holy Quran, since it is “the basis of the Arabic language.”
Al Said also noted, “If you have a good teacher you will love the language and they can make it fun (to learn); but for some reason you have teachers that are too serious. Children become afraid of them.” To preserve and promote the country’s native language, she said there is a need to improve teaching methods and enhance the quality of teaching materials so that the students stay interested in the subject.