Dubai - Moral education was announced as a mandatory nationwide initiative in 2016.
Adults in the UAE need to practise what they preach to youngsters in order to make the country's nationwide Moral Education programme successful, a top official has said.
The director of the Education Affairs Office at the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince's Court, Mohamed Al Neaimi, told Khaleej Times that young people often learn from the actions of adults. He was one of the keynote speakers at a conference that was held in Dubai, where school principals gathered to share best practices on implementing moral education in classrooms.
Moral education was announced as a mandatory nationwide initiative in 2016 by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. This academic year, it was implemented across all schools from Grades 1 to 12 and progress is regularly monitored by authorities.
Speaking about the challenges in implementing the programme, Al Neaimi said: "I think we need to make sure that what they (the students) are being taught is what they are seeing as well in the community, in the school environment and from their parents. We hope what they read is what they see as well. Maybe that's a bit of a challenge. Another big challenge is that, because the programme is so new, everyone is learning at the same time."
He said there are four key objectives in the programme, including civic studies, the individual and the community, cultural studies, and character and morality.
The main mission, according to Al Neaimi, is to ensure students are given the proper tools to successfully navigate through any potential moral dilemmas they may face in life.
"One of the other objectives is to bring these different schools together and exchange knowledge and share best practices. Another focus is that because of all the interference that's coming from the outside world and the fact that information is available everywhere, we need to make our students learn how to consume information. Through the moral education programme, we are trying to broaden their horizons, asking questions and developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills," he added.
Principals also spoke to Khaleej Times on the sidelines of the conference, sharing instances of how they've integrated moral education into the core subjects.
Sheela George, principal of Aspam ISS, Sharjah, said they teach moral education in almost every subject.
"For example, if you're talking about relationship skills, how do you integrate that into the subject of science? If a child is learning about the science behind a plant, they should also be taught how to nurture and look after the plant," George said.
"For senior classes, it goes into the deeper knowledge. When you talk about the digestive system, for example, what kind of relationship does the heart have with the lungs? What food should be eaten to remain healthy? The impact has been very positive and we see the respect and love they give to everyone," she added.
Zara Harrington, principal of Safa British School, said: "What we ask our children to do is to embed what they already know and what they learn. For example, they had a quiz with various photos of empathy and sympathy, then they talked about which one they felt and why. They produce solutions through the language modelled by the adults who are teaching them. This allows the older children to learn that and then they share what they already know with the younger children."