For over a decade, international assessments have shown that Arabic-speaking students score significantly lower in reading, mathematics, and science than students of other languages. Country-level analyses of students’ reading abilities have furthermore found large deficiencies in Arabic-speaking countries, which may contribute to students’ below-average performance in other subjects and international assessments overall. Together with cognitive psychologist Dr. Helen Abadzi, the Al Qasimi Foundation designed and piloted a new early-grade curriculum for teaching Arabic reading that builds on findings from linguistics and cognitive science. A comparison of students’ reading ability between the control and intervention group reveals a significant positive impact of the new curriculum, with students in intervention classrooms reading more letters and making fewer errors than their peers. The report underscores the importance of evidence-based design and evaluation of Arabic language teaching and suggests expanding the pilot program to a larger sample of schools across the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Future evaluations should control for student time spent on task, and consider external factors influencing language learning, such as measures of socioeconomic status and parental involvement.
Recommended citation: Eckert, M., Wilson, E., Abadzi, H., & Jeon, S. (2020). Improving Arabic reading fluency: Results from Iqra, an early-grade reading intervention in Ras Al Khaimah (Policy Paper No. 39). Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research. http://dx.doi.org/10.18502/aqf.0142