Bridging the language learning gap
By Philip Hackett

An increasing number of international schools are placing priority on bilingual and mother tongue language proficiency to enable a bicultural context as well as language acquisition. 


We see this as an explicit need in several countries. The United Arab Emirates is one example, where research by Helen Adabzi, education specialist at the World Bank and professor from the University of Texas at Arlington, has identified that Arabic students are not performing as well in their mother tongue as they are in English. One of the reasons for this, she says, is due to the visual complexities of the Arabic script and a limited command of grammar.


If students are to live and work in their home country after English-medium education, then fluency of their mother tongue is essential. Recognising this need, the UAE introduced new inclusive initiatives in 2018 to increase opportunities for more people, including student achievement in Arabic. It’s a requirement that is being recognised in other countries too. Students need to understand concepts and ideas in their mother tongue as well as in English if they are to live, thrive and contribute within their home country.


Technology offers solutions

It is imperative to narrow the learning gap caused by second and other language scenarios, and by language and literacy differences. Technology-based resources can be a solution to supporting language acquisition. The familiarity and popularity of device use by students encourages their resource potential and innovative tech solutions can meet a wide range of accessibility, engagement and personalised learning challenges, breaking down barriers caused by language or special educational needs.


One example of achieving this was through the use of Clicker, a literacy support platform by Crick Software at Jumeirah English Speaking School in Dubai. The student body includes a wide profile of special educational needs including dyslexia, expressive receptive language delay and sensory challenges, and required a solution to improve writing accessibility and increase student motivation.

We worked with Emma Dibden at JESS to support staff engagement and implementation and, as a result, within six months of introducing the resource, results were sufficiently positive to gain comment from the Dubai School Inspection Bureau regarding its impact on student confidence. Children who previously found writing challenging were producing significantly improved results, achieving learning goals, collaborating more effectively, sharing good practice amongst peers, and finding applications for the resource beyond specified learning tasks.  The school identified that an effective tech-based solution could level the playing field for children of all abilities and, in so doing, create a community of engaged, motivated, collaborative learners who were all developing their language proficiency.


Improving language acquisition and enacting more inclusive initiatives are important for all international schools. Technology-based resources can work to address both challenges in tandem, providing solutions which are often more efficacious and cost-efficient than non-tech options.

Phil Hackett is International Business Manager at Crick Software. He can be contacted directly on LinkedIn or at You can find out more about Clicker at

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