How UAE is shaping the future of world education

A few weeks ago, I was honoured to be invited to speak to an audience of education leaders at one of the world’s oldest and most revered centres of learning, Cambridge University in the UK.

By Dino Varkey (Group Executive, Director and Board Member of GEMS Education)

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Published: Tue 28 Oct 2014, 11:51 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 9:50 PM

I am proud to say that I am the third generation of a family of educators. My grandparents were teachers, my father is an education entrepreneur, and I too have the privilege of following in their footsteps. I have been raised in the belief that education is the single most important factor in changing the world for the better, and in changing the lives of individuals for the better. Those old clichés though well worn still hold so much truth — give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and feed him for life. Such is the power of education.

At GEMS, we are driven by a singular purpose: to provide quality education to every child and every student that is part of the GEMS Network. For the past 55 years, we have made this our mission. As a proud UAE company, we have dedicated considerable resources to ensuring the highest quality education for young people across the nation, and beyond.

At GEMS, we believe that solving the education crisis globally is the single greatest opportunity we have to improve the state of our world. And we believe that the model adopted here in the UAE, in an environment which has allowed our organisation – and the careers of our alumni - to flourish can be used as a model for the development of schools and education systems around the world. A model which address the very real and very pressing needs of these millions of young people who are desperate to learn, and eager to use education as a means to better their own lives, the lives of their families and indeed the lives of entire communities.

The UAE education system, of which GEMS has become an integral part over more than five decades, has evolved to meet the needs of the diverse communities living in our great nation, both Emiratis and expatriates. In the UAE alone, almost 90 per cent of education is now provided by the private sector. Today, the world is mirroring this demand, and the number of parents and students seeking private sector education is increasing around the globe.

In the UAE, the government has taken a measured and balanced approach — setting policy and regulation that not only welcomes educators and investors, but also helps them to flourish and succeed. The UAE model has been successful because the private sector has been empowered to provide a range of schooling options across international curricula which meet the diverse needs of the community.

In order for us to imagine a wider world where a right to quality education is a reality, we believe that governments around the globe need policies where new market entrants are supported rather than driven out – and that they should look to the UAE as an example.

Even the most successful NGOs in the world have adopted private sector principles to achieve their mission. If adopted correctly, private sectors can provide capacity to build an education system at scale, and at pace. More so, they are accountable at a level not applicable to public sector education and simply put, accountability ensures better education. Children are driven by their parents who instill in them the importance of a good education. Providers are playing in a very competitive market where success ensures survival. In order for providers to be successful, viable and sustainable, their schools need to be full, which in turn is down to the performance of educators, who are held to high standards of accountability by providers, investors and parents. A virtuous circle if you will.

That is why we, as an education provider, are ever-mindful of our responsibilities to honour the country that has been our home and fostered our success. We are proud to fly the flag on the world stage as a UAE organisation, and to be able to say thank you to the nation which empowered us to become an international leader in education.

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