Overall, Arab countries score lower in international assessments than non-Arab countries. The gap may be partly due to the visual complexities of Arabic script patterns and a limited command of standard Arabic grammar. Cognitive research suggests that students must process content instantly in order to retain it in working memory and make sense of it. Modern teaching methods may offer little reading practice or study of grammatical patterns, so students may read slowly, understand little, and process shorter texts than those administered in international assessments. Thus students’ working memory may be unable to contain messages long enough to make sense of them and respond correctly.
To overcome the challenges of visual and grammatical complexity, students studying in Arabic must become fluent and effortless readers by the end of Grade 1, if possible. They should also learn orally and systematically the standard Arabic grammatical patterns needed to comprehend text instantly and precisely. Instructional time must be used to practice these skills and attain automaticity in reading and language comprehension. Pilots have showed sizable effect performance improvement in Grade 1. Interventions that focus on perceptual learning and working memory issues may help Arab countries perform at par with others.