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The first student from the university to receive the Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award for Distinguished Academic Performance was recently announced. The recipient is 21 year old Majeed Abdulhakim.

The annual award, which includes a Dh25,000 prize, is made to three university students from the UAE who produce research that imparts greater enrichment and understanding of education in the nation.

A major in Islamic studies and Arabic language, Ms Abdulhakim, an Ajman-born Bangladeshi, studied the impact the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Arabic language initiatives are having in Ajman high schools.

The seven Arabic language initiatives, launched by Sheikh Mohammed, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, in 2012, led to some additions; including a new education edifice at Zayed Universitythe formation of an Arabic language charter, an advisory council and competitions to promote and protect the language in an effort to boost national identity.

According to the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs, the programs also requires setting up a translation faculty at the Mohammed bin Rashid Media College, a programme to intensify Arabic content online and the formation of a committee of experts charged with restoring Arabic as the language of science and technology.

Ms Abdulhakim’s research centered around new ways of teaching Arabic. She wanted to discover whether the initiative was impacting the classrooms and curricula of public and private high schools in Ajman.

Her survey questioned 250 high school teachers in the emirate. Based upon the 101 replies received, Ms Abdulhakim concluded that while the initiatives helped increase awareness of the need to bolster Arabic, they have done little to affect curricula or impact how teachers deliver their daily lessons.

In answer to the survey question: “Have you applied new teaching techniques as a result of the Arabic language initiatives?”, 82 per cent of respondents said they had not.

“It was shocking for me to see that most teachers answered no to this question because it showed that the Arabic-language initiatives didn’t encourage them to improve their teaching method,” said Ms Abdulhakim. “So, it didn’t affect them and it did not encourage them to improve their teaching.”

Ms Abdulhakim indicated that her findings led her to the conclusion that the government needed to give specific instructions to help teachers utilize Arab language initiatives in class.

“The fault is not of the initiative but how it was launched,” she said. “The ministry did not communicate the needs or the requirement in order to fulfil the initiatives. They need to be able to communicate exactly how it needs to be done. There was no road map.”

Apparently, there was some positive news to come out of Ms Abdulhakim’s survey. It showed that the initiatives increased teachers’ general interest in Arabic. They also said they had become more curious about participating in Arabic-language activities and it spurred them to use Arabic more often than English.

Ajman University vice president Osama Saeed Salman praised Ms Abdulhakim’s attempt to measure the impact of the initiatives in classrooms. “Preservation of Arabic is integral to our national identity and cultural heritage,” said Mr Salman. “She has shed light on the importance of having a catalyst in place that can translate a vision into reality by providing a road map.”

Ms Abdulhakim will be honoured, along with other Hamdan Award recipients, at a ceremony in Dubai on April 22.

She said she will use her prize money to pursue her Master’s degree in education. “I want to make a difference in this field.”

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