Parents/carers and Children Needs Analysis

Similar to what we did with Scottish educators (discussed in detail in the previous post), we met the Arabic speaking parents/carers and their children. We asked them what “Arabic” they would love to hear/see in Scottish schools.

We conducted semi-structured focus group interviews with Arabic speaking parents and their children. After introducing the project idea and asking all parents/careers and children how they felt about it, all children gathered around two of the researchers to discuss what they would love to hear/see in Arabic inside their schools, and what they would like to teach their classmates and teachers in Arabic. Verbal language was not the only way we used to get the answers from children, but we also used visual posters where the children drew, wrote and coloured the most important phrases or linguistic skills they thought their educators should learn in Arabic.

In the same room, the third researcher gathered with the parents/carers and discussed the questions multilingually, using Arabic and English to hear their reflections on the project’s idea, and what they would love to hear/see in Arabic in their interactions with school staff.

Similar to what we found in staff needs analysis, both parents/carers and children were very keen to see their educators able to greet and welcome them in their own language as a very first step of breaking the ice between them, and a step to getting closer to them in their own native tongue.

Feelings and emotions seem to be important to all three groups as well. Children wanted to know how to express their emotions to their teachers and wanted their teachers to understand and support them in sensitive situations, bypassing the language barriers between them. The parents too mentioned that they wanted to know if something wrong happened to their children. They wanted to understand what happened, so they can come to the school immediately without the extra time that might be wasted while looking for an interpreter.

Parents wanted to ask about their children’s performance and behaviour at school too. They also mentioned they would love to see Arabic included as a school subject in the future and for it to be officially recognised through certification.

Children included many different topics such as colours, animal names, fruit, vegetables, days of the week, school objects, and the alphabet. These topics, as mentioned by one of the teachers, are similar to what the students learn themselves in the English as Additional Language (EAL) classes. The school staff need to become learners like them!

All needs analysis collected from Scottish staff, parents/carers and children are all taken crucial to adapt the OPAC course so that it meets the needs of Scottish educators and Arabic speaking family and children.

Scottish Educators Needs Analysis

The first step of the project is done!

Language Needs Analysis (16 March – 31st March)

The first step of the ‘Welcoming Languages’ project is collecting the language needs of Scottish staff, Arabic speaking parents/carers and children in partner schools. The University of Glasgow team asks participants what language they think should be included in the course that will be taught to Scottish educators.

This is the first post of two that discusses the needs of each of the above group participants, starting with the Educators Needs Analysis.

We conducted focus group semi-structured interviews with Scottish educators in three schools. Over 30 educators were interested in taking part in this project. We asked them how they imagine themselves using Arabic with both Arabic-speaking children and Arabic-speaking parents/carers, and what they would like to be able to say. We also asked them to look at the set of topics currently included in the Online Arabic from Palestine (OAfP) course, which is a generic Arabic language course for beginners, and order them in terms of importance to the Scottish education context and their expected interactions within the school.

The Scottish educators all work in primary schools. They are class teachers, a headteachers, a few EAL teachers. Some of them work in other roles within the schools, such as family support staff and head of subject.

All educators agreed that they would like to be able to use Arabic to welcome new arrivals to their school and to get closer to their Arabic speaking students and parents/carers. Educators expressed their interest in learning how to greet parents/carers and children to make them feel ‘welcomed’ and ‘valued’ inside the school. All of the educators also agreed on using Arabic as a language of reassurance. They wanted to understand the feelings and emotions of their students and how to assure them in Arabic. They would like to learn expressions such as “what’s wrong?”, “Why are you sad”, “Are you OK?”, “Are you hurt?”, “What is it that is bothering you?” … etc. They are also very keen to learn how to soothe their students in their native language. This includes phrases like, “Do you want me to call your mum?”, “How can I help?”, “Do not worry”, and “It’s okay”. In addition, they would like to learn daily survival language including, “Do you want to go to the toilet?” and classroom-related instructions, as discussed below.

Teachers’ language needs differed from those who work with families in terms of the school routine. Teachers would like to learn how to say instructions for daily school activities in Arabic. For example, they would like to learn how to say, “sit down”, “come here”, “take your pen”, “write”, “play”, and some specific subject-related vocabulary such as mathematical language, “take away”, “add”, and “multiply” as they believe that their students are very capable in mathematics, but the language is their barrier.

Family support staff, on the other hand, were more interested in communicative language to be used with the parents. This contains language to help parents/carers enrol their children at school such as questions about age, place, date of birth, educational background, languages spoken at home… etc. Moreover, family support staff are keen to learn phrases to support parents and ask them if they require any help or specific dietary requirements when they come for parents’ meetings.

These language needs will be taken into consideration when adapting our existing Online Arabic from Palestine (OAfP) course to address the needs identified by this specific group of learners, and to meet their expectations. The Arabic course is due to start soon, so watch this space!

Another Project – One More collaboration :)

Here we are again! We have gathered for a new project ‘Welcoming Languages: Refugee Languages in Scottish Education’. We are getting back to using the space of the virtual realities and dealing with different smiley screens of all shapes and types to connect and collaborate with our team in Gaza, Palestine to contribute to knowledge, maintain relations and build on our previous successful collaborations.

It all started with developing an online Arabic course for beginners, the Online Arabic from Palestine (OAfP). The course was co-designed and co-developed by experts in both University of Glasgow, UK, and the Islamic University of Gaza, Palestine. Then we gathered again to improve OAfP teachers’ guide and train teachers from Gaza to teach the course online. Now, we want to adapt the materials of this course to meet new needs! And here comes out the new project, Welcoming Languages.

Welcoming languages project aims at including a refugee language in Scottish education. This project would be an application of the promise and a proof of concept of “integrations as a two-way process” noted in the New Scots Refugee Integration Strategy (Scottish Government, 2018). We believe that integration could be facilitated by learning and teaching the home languages of the new Scots. To explore the feasibility of including a refugee language, both benefits and challenges to do so, we are starting with Arabic, the language spoken by the largest number of refugees in Scotland. We will build on and adapt OPAC materials and teach them online to 12 educators in Scotland (teachers, head-teachers, secretarial staff, classroom assistants). The materials will be tailored to this new context and personalised to meet the needs of these educators situated in their local schools.

We hope this would be the first step towards embracing refugees’ home languages and maintaining their “linguistic capitals”, viewing their languages as a resource to learn a new language and to integrate with the new society rather than a barrier.

So, keep an eye on this blog for more coming updates!