Bahraini parents prefer English-based schools

February 21, 2010
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School girls in Bahrain

Around two thirds of Bahraini parents prefer to send their children to schools where the curriculum is taught in English, a survey indicates.

The study found that only 14 per cent of the parents who responded to the questionnaire want their children to learn mainly Arabic at school, while 64 per cent put English as the preferred instruction medium. The remaining 22 per cent think that both languages should be given equal attention at school and outside.

The survey was conducted by a local media group ahead of the International Mother Language Day observed on February 21 since 2000. The day was proclaimed by UNESCO’s General Conference in November 1999 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.

“Whether we like it or not, English is the language of the modern era and we should not underestimate its significance for the future of our children,” said Mariam Yousuf, a media specialist. “Despite repeated calls by the parliament to favour Arabic, we see that English remains far ahead in daily communication in Bahrain. In business, it is used almost exclusively and I should hate to see my son suffer if he has problems to understand or to communicate with others,” she said. However, Nozha Al Shaikh, a teacher of Arabic at a private school, said that children who failed to acquire a minimum of communication and comprehension standards in Arabic, are at risk of losing their identity. “People are aware of the fascination that some languages, mainly English, have on parents who want to move up in the social scale. But that should not be at the expense of their identity,” she said. “As much as we like our children to be successful in their lives and even leaders, we simply cannot uproot them. They can learn a language, but they do not have to melt in its culture,” said the teacher who speaks fluent French and English as well. The survey was conducted among Bahrainis of various economic backgrounds and ages. The random sample was made up of men (52 per cent) and women (48 per cent). Arabic is the official language in Bahrain, but English is widely used. Most communities have their own schools, but all private schools are required by the education ministry to teach Arabic language courses. Some foreign schools offer cultural studies to help non-Arab students learn about the local language and culture.

         

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About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Career
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
Education
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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