UAE's Digital School to educate 20,000 underprivileged students in first year

The initiative is partnering with Arizona State University in a bid to attract best resources for teacher training for online platforms



Photo for illustrative purposes
Photo for illustrative purposes
by

Nandini Sircar

Published: Mon 28 Feb 2022, 6:09 PM

Last updated: Mon 28 Feb 2022, 8:12 PM

The Digital School — the first integrated, multi-platform and accredited Arabic online school — is all set to embark on its mission of empowering refugees and underprivileged students in the region and around the world. It aims to reach 20,000 students this year, and in five years, it hopes to educate as many as one million pupils, it was announced on Monday.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, on Monday saw the launch of the school’s operations.

“Our goal is to bring digital learning to new horizons as it is the education of the future and the future of education,” Sheikh Mohammed said.

“In line with international standards in its educational and knowledge content, The Digital School articulates our belief that education is a right for all and that equal educational opportunities are the basis of comprehensive and sustainable development, ” he added.

The Digital School’s target reach has been set for the next five years, according to Omar Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications and chairman of the school’s board of directors.

“We are going to have a significant increase in the number of students in the coming years. From 20,000 in year one to 100,000 in year two, 300,000 in year three, 600,000 in year four, and one million students by the end of fifth year,” Al Olama said during a Press conference at Expo 2020 Dubai.

This innovative platform — which falls under the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives (MBRGI) — is a product of global collaborations, which all aim to enhance the quality of online education across the Arab world.

Agreements were signed with five countries — including Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Mauritiana and Colombia — for the deployment of the online school, Al Olama said.

In its subsequent phases, it will be partnering with the Arizona State University to attract the best resources and get world-class teacher trainers on board.

“We have worked on training the teachers in partnership with Arizona State University to give them the best training possible and ensure that they benefit from the journey on the platform,” the minister added.

Powered by cutting-edge technologies and artificial intelligence, The Digital School will provide classroom access to students anywhere in the world, particularly those from underserved communities.

It will blend live and self-paced virtual classes in math, science, Arabic, computer studies and English. It will follow various learning models and processes that are compatible with national and international curricula.

At this online school, students will sit for lessons that are delivered via interactive simulation, game-based learning and AI-driven modules.

Dr Abdulla Al Karam, director-general at the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), said: “We focused on serving the stakeholders, the students, and the teachers.  We also focused on working with the local education bodies of the countries that we are working with to ensure that the content gets digitised as per their standards and outcomes.”

He added: “We are confident that the teachers are one of the key sustainable elements of this programme. They are not only knowledgeable about the subject but also the technology; thus ensuring that the maximum benefit is being realised.”

The Digital School is supported by an international advisory board that includes a group of international experts from reputable institutions and organisations, such as the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), the United Nations Generation Unlimited, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of South Wales Sydney, Arizona State University, and Brookings Institution.

Dubai Cares to provide Dh5m grant

Dubai Cares has earmarked a Dh5 million in funds for The Digital School, helping the platform reach its goal of providing refugees and marginalised students with quality education.

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Dr Tariq Al Gurg, CEO of Dubai Cares and member of its board of directors, said this e-school shall make education accessible to all — including “children who are on the move and displaced in their own countries and those in rural areas where there is no schooling system other than the digital world”.

The organisation will be putting up an IT infrastructure to meet all the requirements, he said.

“If a country has a certain criterion on how they can adopt the system, we have the flexibility to customise how this integration will happen. Everything related to logistics, discussions with the government, and mapping out is done by the Emirates Red Crescent,” Al Gurg said.

The Emirates Red Crescent is one of the key partners that will support The Digital School with 1,000 learning spaces for the next five years.

Elaborating on international collaborations, Al Gurg said: “What is left now is to bring global partnerships into this whole ethos of delivering this kind of education remotely.  We at Dubai Cares want education to be remodeled from a philanthropic point of view. Today, we are in 60 countries providing education to more than 20 million children. What we are going to do is take the same model and plugging it into digital schools.”


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