How UAE has schooled a future-ready generation

Dhanusha Gokulan (Principal Correspondent) Filed on December 24, 2019 | Last updated on December 24, 2019 at 05.47 am
UAE, foundation, future-ready generation, education system, education sector, classrooms

(KT file photo)

The education system is evolving from personalised, inclusive learning to a specialised one.

The foundation for the UAE's success story was set inside its classrooms. From rustic learning centres in desert oases to a future-ready education system, the schools here are preparing men and women who can lead the world to a greener, sustainable planet. Over the last decade, the system has seen revolutionary innovations like Dubai's Rahhal, which promotes part-time learning so students can pursue other interests.

'Mutawa system' to modern education: A brief history

The country has seen four distinct stages in its education sector, said Dr Arindam Banerjee, associate professor and deputy director, global MBA and Masters of Business Programme, SP Jain School of Global Management, Dubai. "The earliest system was referred to as the Mutawa and Katateeb. Mutawa literally meant the wisest person in the village who took the onus of helping others in reading and scripting the Holy Quran and abiding by Islamic principles. On the other hand, Katateeb was similar in nature but differed in having a physical location for imparting knowledge to the upper strata of the society, which was similar to the present-day primary schooling."

Next up were 'educational circles' structured around traditional student-teacher model involving knowledge transfer through lecture methods. The third phase or 'semi-organised education' spanned around 50 years starting 1900. The final phase marked the initiation of the 'modern education system'.

A golden decade that was

Zubair Ahmad, head of HR and administration of Springdales School, Dubai, said school reform began with enhanced curricula in mathematics and science in 2003-4 and a commitment to large scale funding of teacher training from 2009. "These reforms coincided with regular school inspections by the regulatory bodies, the commitment to achieve the National Agenda 2021 goals in terms of PISA and TIMSS targets, teacher licensing, and the implementation of the Inclusion Framework (2017)."

How it is now: Students are spoilt for choice

Brendon Fulton, executive principal of Dubai British School, Jumeirah Park, said parents now have a wide choice of schools across multiple curricula. "Coupled with the ongoing quality assurance processes in place by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), this has put pressure on schools to ensure that the standard of education on offer is of the highest quality.

"This is great news for families in the UAE who can now find an excellent school that fits their budget, and fits the personal educational need of their children.

"This last point is perhaps the most important as education has evolved to be far more personalised to the individual educational needs of each student, rather than expecting everyone to thrive under the same 'rules'."

Coming soon: Super intelligent students

>Adaptive learning, gamification

Wishlist of Zubair Ahmad, head of HR and administration of Springdales School, Dubai:

More integrated skills-based curriculum with greater use of adaptive learning platforms supporting continuous assessment and target-setting

Gamification of learning to feature as simulations that can be experienced in 3D both in real-time and slow motion at will

Students will be able to engage with textured environments and virtual tutor/guides.

>Classrooms as idea-generating labs

Standard curricula will become more malleable and learning environments will look less like knowledge capsules and more like idea-generating labs. Despite a tendency to assume that the future classroom will be 'ruled by technology', my belief is that the future classroom will provide comfortable, safe and inspirational spaces for children to interact with and learn from each other"

Brendon Fulton, executive principal of Dubai British School, Jumeirah Park

>Varsities of the future

Wishlist of Prof Christopher Abraham, CEO and head, S P Jain School of Global Management,

Dubai campus

>The future university would embody the critical skills required for the 21st century professional

>It would move away from the industrial revolution legacy and become more open to encourage creativity, innovation, problem-solving, critical thinking, and collaboration

>It would enable the influence of cutting edge, evolving technologies including artificial intelligence, big data, machine learning, deep learning, Internet of everything and human-computer interface

>The evolution of these technologies would result in the development of super intelligent human beings.

AI to assist, not replace teachers

Modern researchers and educators talk about classes without walls and AI taking over. I don't agree with that at all. You need an adult to understand personalities, emotions, and treat students. Maintaining the balance between human and technology is absolutely critical. If kids are overly dependent on technology, they might stop becoming critical thinkers."

Iain Colledge, executive principal, Raha International School, Abu Dhabi



Dhanusha Gokulan

Originally from India, Dhanusha Gokulan has been working as a journalist for over ten years. For Khaleej Times, she covers NRI affairs, civil aviation, and immigration issues among other things. She completed her BA in Journalism, Economics and English Literature from Mangalore University in 2008 and is currently pursuing her MA in Leadership and Innovation in Contemporary Media at the American University in Dubai. In her spare time, she dabbles with some singing/songwriting, loves food, and is mom to an over-enthusiastic Labrador retriever. Tweet at her @shootsprintrite.

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