By Osama Al-Eryani
Jamal Abdulnasser Secondary School, Yemen’s first state-run school for intellectually gifted students, has opened its doors for the 2013-2014 school year. Despite some criticism, the school allows for pupils to be taught at an accelerated pace in an individual manner, and supporters hope that future graduates will be the key to developing the Yemeni economy.
Out of more than 600 applicants for spaces in this year’s entering class of tenth graders, only 276 were accepted. Requirements included high grades from a student’s previous school and a good score on an entrance exam in science, math, English, and Arabic.
Curriculum focuses on engaging students in science and technology, and includes the opportunity to test out theories in computer labs. According to Saleh Alwi-Al-Daheri, the school’s principal, teachers are trained to provide individual attention. This is made possible by limiting class sizes to 27 students- a contrast to public schools, which often have more than 100 pupils in a classroom.
“We aim to build highly qualified students,” says Al-Daheri. School supporters say they hope students will be ready to contribute to Yemen’s economy and overall development upon graduation.
While many have praised the school for raising educational standards, it has also received some criticism, most notably for the fact that it does not accept female students.
“We tried to have two separate buildings for male and female students but came across technical difficulties. So, the school is only for men,” says Al-Daheri, noting that talks with the Ministry of Education are underway to establish facilities for female students.
As female Yemeni students also deserve equal access to education, the school’s administration must be encouraged to admit and support female students as soon as possible. Additionally, computer labs and small class sizes are important for all students, not just gifted ones.
As hopes for the graduates of Abdulnasser Secondary School become realized, officials may realize the worth of the school’s model, and one hopes it will become standard practice for schools across the country.