Information was imparted to the young at mosques in a structure called educational circles.
From rural schools in the desert to technologically-advanced classrooms with robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) … the UAE’s education landscape has come a long way. With sprawling school and university campuses, new courses and regulations, an increased focus on technology, and a greater focus on student well-being, the growth in the education sector has matched the rapid pace of the country’s development.
According to ‘A History of Education in the United Arab Emirates and Trucial Sheikdoms’, a 2015 research paper authored by Ali Alhebsi, a graduate student; Lincoln D. Pettaway, PhD, assistant professor; and Lee ‘Rusty’ Waller, an associate professor at the American University of Ras Al Khaimah, information used to passed down from generation to generation via oral and written means.
The paper said information was imparted to the young at mosques in a structure called educational circles.
Modern education systems came to the country a few years before the Union. The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan opened Nahyaneia Model School in Al Ain in 1959.
A British school opened in opened in 1968 after Sheikh Zayed donated a plot of land for it.
By 1964, Abu Dhabi had 33 teachers educating 390 boys and 138 girls in Abu Dhabi.
As of 2018, over 90 per cent of school education in Dubai takes place in the private sector, served by 194 private schools offering 17 different curricula to more than 280,000 students from 182 nationalities
The journey to Rahhal
The education system in the UAE has undergone monumental changes over the past 50 years. The sector’s most recent achievement in Dubai was the launch of Rahhal in 2018. A creative and innovative alternative to mainstream education, Rahhal is based on a part-time learning concept customised for specific needs of a learner.
The government seeks to improve the UAE’s ranking in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study, to score among the top 20 countries by 2021.
In an earlier interaction with the media, Dr Abdulla Al Karam, director-general of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), said: “In the future, classrooms will be replaced by open, collaborative spaces that bring students of different ages and abilities together. This will encourage students to work together on solving real-world problems from a very young age, allowing schools to move away from tests and exams completely.”
Dino Varkey, CEO of GEMS Education, told Khaleej Times: “In today’s hyper-connected information age, it is clear that the education sector is, unfortunately, notoriously slow in adapting to change. We must arm our students with the right skillsets for the future jobs market.
“The projected global shortage of teachers is almost 70 million, which cannot be bridged with traditional solutions. When we consider the potential labour disruption of the technology revolution, it may create an interesting opportunity for various sector specialists to look at teaching as a profession when they may have lost jobs to automation. For example, if an engineer loses his or her job to automation, they can be retrained to become a teacher to the benefit of many.”
He said changing values will be a driver of every key megatrend in the future. “The challenge for education providers, parents and political leaders will be: Can we shape those values in a manner that leads to every human being able to claim their basic human rights, where we know that generations to come will thrive in a more sustainable, peaceful and prosperous world.”
Fast-forward 50 years
What the classroom of the future will look like
>AI teachers would be available 24 hours a day
>Campuses would be virtual
>E-learning platforms will become more affordable
>Social and economic skills will be a priority
>Project-based learning and ed-tech will increase
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