History of the English Programme


The programme began as the Enrichment project in September 2014 with the aim of improving the English language skills of students in the Government education sysStudents 2tem. A
team of specialists were recruited and produced enrichment materials designed to support the English curriculum, and provide additional support for English language teachers.

A small number of teachers were employed and were allocated a ‘cluster’ of Cycle 3 (grades 10-12) schools to work in. Their key aims were to support English subject teachers in using the enrichment materials, mentoring them and providing professional development sessions.  The programme was entitled ‘Bridging The Gap’, but the work done is now integrated within the Ministry’s mainstream activities, rather than a stand-alone project.


The Challenge

  • A report, published in 2015 by economists Eric Hanushek and Ludger Woessmann, which ranked 76 countries on how well their pupils performed, placed the UAE in 45th place, just below Romania and Turkey.
  • The UAE has weak English proficiency compared to most countries, but it is slightly more proficient than other countries in the Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) region.
  • Students study English from kindergarten to grade 12 but the majority are not ready for direct entry to University. Emirati students work towards taking the International English Language Testing System (IELTs) exam and the Common Education Proficiency Assessment (CEPA). A score of CEPA 180 is the threshold for entry in to tertiary education. Expatriate (non- Emirati) students work towards IELTs.
  • Most Emirati G12 students complete a CEPA test in term 2 of their final year. Their score in English ascertains whether they will be admitted directly into University. A score below 180 means they have to enter a Foundation YearStudent 3 prior to going to University in order to improve their English language skills. All but one University in the UAE uses English as the medium of instruction. From 2017 the Foundation Year will no longer be available, and G12 students must get a CEPA English score of at least 180, with no option for further study.

The Solution

The English Department is focusing efforts in a number of areas to improve the English language skills of students in the UAE, including:

  • Several outcome-focused initiatives designed to directly address the challenges of the UAE and which deliver improvements in English proficiency
  • Focused work with the students and teachers to enhance short term results and promote long term sustainability by up-skilling the teaching workforce
  • Update the English language curriculum to meet the challenges faced by students in a globally competitive economy and diverse society
  • Promote a reading culture to support the aims of the programme
  • Support complementary programmes such as Life Skills, Entrepreneurship & Innovation and Design Technology