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The Need for Ability Grouping in English Classes in Public Schools in the UAE

Christine Howling
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Lack of English proficiency among secondary school graduates is a significant issue in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as English is the medium of instruction in federal universities. Due to this, one-third of the UAE government’s university budget is spent on remedial courses that seek to develop the English-language skills of incoming university students (Salem & Swan, 2014).


This policy paper examines research conducted in 2014-2015 on the English language learning experiences of female students enrolled in the remedial Foundation program at a federal institute in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE. The results of the study indicate that the UAE’s current class grouping policy at the secondary school level disadvantages lower-performing students and needs to be reexamined. This paper recommends that the current policy be revised to group students in English classes according to their English-language abilities.

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Author affiliations: Christine Howling, Higher Colleges of Technology

doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.18502/aqf.0045

Recommended citation: Howling, C. (2017). The Need for Ability Grouping in English Classes in Public Schools in the UAE (Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research Policy Paper No. 19). doi:10.18502/aqf.0045