Where right to left is central

9th May 2008 at 01:00
Arabic should be taught more widely in schools because of the contribution it can make to breaking down barriers, according to Haroon Shirwani, who teaches the subject at Eton College
Arabic should be taught more widely in schools because of the contribution it can make to breaking down barriers, according to Haroon Shirwani, who teaches the subject at Eton College.

Arabic teaching in schools is growing, Mr Shirwani told a recent conference in Edinburgh about the language. There are now several organisations for subject teachers - ArabicA and the Arabic Network - and an annual conference. But teaching of the language should become more widespread, he said. Learning Arabic opened up learners' minds.

"Even the act of learning the writing system, which goes from right to left, is a huge paradigm shift for pupils," he said. "They have a concept of the 'right way' to do things and to show them it can be completely the other way is wonderful."

Nevertheless, there are some problems for subject teachers that need to be ironed out, he continued. In England, A-level and GCSE exams are "unnecessarily difficult" and "holding things back", because they have been designed, not for complete novices, but for those already exposed to the language.

He also called for the "Iron Curtain" that exists between higher education and schools to be lifted, so that those who have reached "a particular standard" do not have to "start from scratch" at university.

www.arabica.org.uk; www.schoolsnetwork.org.uk.

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