The British Council and Qatar Foundation International are working together to promote the teaching and learning of Arabic language and culture in the UK

The new phase of this collaboration aims to make Arabic a realistic choice for UK Schools, Headteachers, parents and students. 

Recent research into long-term language needs, looking at a variety of economic, geopolitical, cultural and educational indicators, identified Arabic as the second most necessary language for the UK over the next 20 years. 

However the gap between this need and current provision is particularly great: Arabic is taught in only five or six per cent of secondary schools in the UK, the majority of which are Muslim faith schools, and often only as an extracurricular subject or in the supplementary sector. 

The British Council and QFI are working to develop Arabic to the same standards expected of the other major world languages in the British school system as a viable option for any student of any background to explore.

UK schools are invited to work together with us to provide Arabic in the curriculum, with three-year funding and support available, described in ‘Our funding offer to schools’, below.

Our programme aims to:

  • Increase the number of schools in the UK teaching Arabic language and culture
  • Provide professional development opportunities, mentoring and modern resources for Arabic teachers
  • Produce fresh research into Arabic language and culture teaching pedagogy and initiate a key stakeholder committee to pave a strategic way forward to meet the UK Arabic needs

The Programme currently focuses on the following areas:

Our funding offer to schools

Schools are invited to apply for a package of funding and support over three years in order to introduce, or expand, provision of Arabic in the schools curriculum:

  • A grant of up to £15k per year for three years (maximum £45k in total).
  • Links to resources with a focus on study of Arab culture(s).
  • The opportunity to apply for Skype sessions with Arabic speakers. 
  • The opportunity to apply for an International link to an Arabic-speaking school.
  • Support with taster sessions 
  • A link to your nearest Arabic supplementary school in association with the NRCSE.
  • Assistance with finding UK-trained MFL teachers who can teach Arabic.

Email us to receive full details and eligibility criteria

What happens next?

We will send you an Expression of Interest form to complete, and will be in touch to offer you:

  • An initial conversation to discuss the school’s specific circumstances
  • Advice on completing the Expression of Interest form
  • Offer of a taster Arabic session with a native speaker teacher provided by us. 
  • A second conversation with the school to review the application and allow the school to ask any questions they have.

The offer is open to secondary schools and Sixth Form Colleges in England, Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland. State schools can apply on their own; applications from Independent schools will be considered if they work in conjunction with a State school.

We are looking for schools who will introduce, or expand, Arabic provision in the curriculum with a long-term plan (funding is for three years with an annual review process), leading to a recognised qualification for participating students. Full details will be included in the Expression of Interest form – please email us to receive it.

Other funding opportunities available

Qatar Foundation International provides support for in-school Arabic language and culture programs across the United Kingdom, with renewal decisions made at the end of each year. Programs can vary from cross-disciplinary cultural initiatives, to fully incorporated Arabic language classes. Grants for schools are designed for QFI to gradually decrease their funding while the school takes on increased responsibility for their program from year to year. QFI has provided direct support to 35 Arabic programs at public and public charter schools in the US, UK, Brazil, and Canada. You can apply by visiting the QFI website

QFI has launched its Classroom Resource Enrichment Grants (CREGs) in the United Kingdom! CREGs are small scale grants of up to £700 that can be used to support Arabic language or Arab culture programs either in purchasing materials for the classroom, or for smaller scale events such as culture nights or field trips. You can apply by visiting the QFI website

Connect with a refugee and learn some Arabic

Qatar Foundation International and the British Council are pleased to offer language teachers/citizenship teachers an exciting opportunity with Chatterbox and NaTakallam. 

An innovative opportunity for schools to hear about the value of language learning first hand: connect with a refugee to learn some of their language and hear their personal story and to learn more about the Arab world.

  • Stand-alone activity very easy to set up, can link to a number of priorities in your school (Languages, citizenship, international education)
  • Sessions take place via Skype and last 30/45 mins by qualified tutors 
  • Lessons are delivered by trained refugee tutors from academic and professional backgrounds; doctors, dentists, lawyers, and teachers.
  • FREE (QFI and the British Council will cover the cost of your session)

The refugees participating are professionals who want to use their skills to benefit both them and wider society. In the UK, several factors inhibit these highly skilled and motivated individuals from finding employment. Chatterbox and NaTakallam have developed a programme of training, work and support, to help them leverage their existing language skills to benefit themselves, their families, and wider society. Data from previous sessions suggests that this innovative co-curricular activity positively impacts student uptake, retention, and attainment on language courses. 

A participating pupil said:

'It was really inspirational and I loved learning about how languages can change your life. Also it was really good hearing first handed how languages can open so many doors to any career.'

Chatterbox offers online and in-person language tutoring delivered by trained refugees. Their Conversation Practice service is used by leading universities and their Complete Language Tuition courses have a 100 per cent completion rate.

Watch a Reuters report on Chatterbox. 

For more information contact mursal@wearechatterbox.org 

NaTakallam

NaTakallam ("we speak" in Arabic) connects forcibly displaced persons with language and cultural exchange students around the world, providing them with economic opportunity, purpose, and re-gained dignity. Displaced people have self-generated over $400,000 through their work with NaTakallam. Give your students engaging, immersive language practice and cultural exchange with NaTakallam. NaTakallam has partnered with QFI to bring virtual guest speaker sessions that amplify refugee voices to schools worldwide. Programs can be conducted in English or Arabic (or a blend of both), as a single 60-minute session, or a three- or 10-part series, any of which can be integrated into an existing school class or an extracurricular club activity.           

Watch an introduction to NaTakallam.

Ready to bring NaTakallam to your school? Contact us or sign up today

Our work in research

In 2016, the British Council commissioned four pieces of research into the most effective ways of supporting schools in meeting young people's Arabic language needs for the future: 

(1) Research into Arabic language and teaching in UK schools (conducted by Alcantara Communications). Please scroll down to the bottom of the page to see the research.

(2) Research intoteaching Arabic as a foreign language (TAFL) in the UK (conducted by Leeds University, Edinburgh University and Goldsmiths University). Please scroll down to the bottom of the page to see the research.

(3) Research into current policy and accreditation of Arabic as a modern foreign language (conducted by Leeds University, Edinburgh University and Goldsmiths University). Please scroll down to the bottom of the page to see the research.

(4) Research into learning differences of heritage vs. non-heritage learners (conducted by Anna-Maria Ramezanzadeh). Please scroll down to the bottom of the page to see the research.

Arabic Language Conference and roundtable

We host an annual conference for Arabic educators and professionals from across the UK. The event includes workshops on how to introduce the teaching of Arabic in schools, professional development sessions, classroom tips and the chance to network with other Arabic teachers.

In 2013, the conference was chaired by Steven Fawkes, Head of the World Languages Committee, Association of Language Learning. An evening reception was attended by over 100 guests and Munira Mirza, Deputy Mayor of London, was the guest of honour.

The 8th Conference took place at the Brunei Gallery Theater SOAS on 23 March. 203 delegates attended from all over UK, as well as delegates from Qatar and the USA. Key note speakers included Professor Hugh Kennedy, SOAS, Dr Elisabeth Kendall, Oxford University and Dr Mahmoud Al Batal, University of Austin Texas.

The conference brought together a wide range of presenters ranging from primary school teachers to university lecturers as well as publishers, writers and teacher trainers.

The Arabic Language and Culture in the UK roundtable event was held at Spring Gardens, London on 21 Mar. This roundtable was to discuss the challenges related to the teaching of Arabic language in the UK, including stakeholders from DfE, FCO, Universities, schools, exam boards and publishers.  This committee has outlined some key action points and working groups are being formed.

In 2018, we hosted two conferences in Leeds and London to engage with researchers, headteachers and practitioners for feedback on the new Arabic GCSE specifications and to help shape the support that teachers of Arabic in the UK say they need.

Professional development for teachers

QFI is partnering with Goldsmiths University of London to provide an Arabic Certificate Course for teachers of Arabic. The course provides a foundation in up-to-date methods for teaching Arabic as a second/foreign language to primary and secondary age learners. To ensure flexibility in meeting individual needs and an ongoing integration of theory and practice, it is based on a blended approach combining face-to-face teaching, supported self-study and classroom observation.

Course participants are expected to be well-organised, open to new ideas and to develop a reflective stance towards their professional development. The course promotes a reflective, process-based and collaborative approach to professional development integrating theory and practice.  It is based on a combination of lecture workshops, self-study activities and classroom teaching. Assessment will be by portfolio, submitted at the end of the course. The course is open to teachers working in the UK in mainstream, independent and community-based school contexts, teaching classes of primary and secondary school aged children. Visit the Goldsmiths University of London website for more information.

Resources for teachers

The Arabic Language and Culture pack is an excellent way to introduce young learners to the Arab world while also challenging their preconceptions of Arab culture. In partnership with Qatar Foundation, we develop an education pack for primary schools. It introduces pupils to the language and culture of the Arab world and includes introductory activities, designed for non-specialist teachers, based on Arabic script, recipes, letters from children in MENA, history and calligraphy. This pack is available to download.

Further resources that we have funded include:

Arabic Online Beginners Course: Created by Pendragon Educational Publishers this is a free online taster course of that has been specifically designed for students in schools throughout the United Kingdom. It is ideal for secondary pupils of any age, but will be particularly beneficial at key stage 3 as it leads learners progressively towards an active use of the Arabic language and understanding of Arab culture. The course is available on desktop and laptop computers and is complemented by a Smartphone App (Android). The course can be classroom-based and teacher guided, but can also be offered to pupils for self-study. No previous knowledge of Arabic is required.

Language League Kick-Off: Developed by Routes Into Languages and Manchester Metropolitan University, this is a creative and unique initiative for young people to develop and enhance their Arabic language skills. It offers an attractive and creative approach to language learning linked to the game of football. Materials comprise of a fully integrated package of teachers’ notes, pupils’ workbook, a series of PowerPoint presentations and additional printable materials, such as flashcards.