Preparing lifelong learners

The UAE is one of the more mature education markets in the region, becoming a major draw for investors, providers and students from across the globe


Mazhar Farooqui

Published: Thu 2 Dec 2021, 12:00 AM

As the UAE marks 50 glorious years, policy makers in the country are actively focusing on what education will look like in the next 50 years, and what’s in store for future students.

“We are thinking about the future and the 50 years to come, to build capacity for the different scenarios that might happen. So, students can be lifelong learners,” said Hussain Al Hammadi, the UAE Minister of Education in a tweet.

Al Hammadi’s vision is in line with UAE Centennial 2071 of which education is one of four key pillars.

The long-term government initiative aims to make the UAE the best country in the world by the time it turns 100 in 2071.

Among other things, the plan is centered around quality education that encompasses advanced science and technology, space science, engineering, innovation, and health sciences.

Over the next 50 years, the Ministry of Education will focus on fostering an education system that builds competitiveness among children and enhances skills while also developing higher education models aligned with the needs of the future labour market, said Dr Mohamed Ebrahim Al Mualla, Undersecretary for Academic Affairs at the Ministry of Education.

An advanced and flexible national qualifications system that copes with the requirements of future economic development is also in the works. These are in addition to a sustainable model for people of determination and a proactive holistic system for nurturing talent.

Under its astute leadership, the UAE is on course to meet its ambitious goals.

The country has been ranked first globally in three indexes related to the Sustainable Development Goal 4 of Quality Education, which guarantees inclusive and equitable quality education while promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.

The country also clinched the top spot in the Primary Education Enrolment and Literacy Index in the Global Gender Gap Report published by the World Economic Forum. It stood first in terms of the flow of international students’ index published by IMD.

The country has 725 international schools with 696,600 students on its rolls compared to China, which is in second place with 419,000 children, followed by India with 316,000 foreign students

Of the 725 international schools in the UAE as many as 333 are in Dubai alone, a record for any city.Educational institutions across the country are widely encouraged to adapt technology. Sure enough, they had a smooth transition to online learning when the coronavirus pandemic upended classrooms and campuses around the world.

The need for students to learn remotely at least some of the time meant that “almost every international school” in the UAE upgraded its educational technology, according to a study by ISC Research, a leading provider of English-medium K-12 international school data, trends and intelligence.

To ensure a successful distance learning process, the Ministry of Education conducted professional training for 25,000 government school teachers and administrators in addition to over 9,200 private school teachers and principals.

It also launched smart learning platforms and a manual to manage students’ behaviour. The UAE also offered free satellite broadband services to students living areas lacking connectivity. Students without home internet connection were provided free internet.

Starting January 2022, all educational institutions and school buses across the country will operate at 100 per cent capacity. A decision to this effect was taken in wake of the substantial drop in the number of Covid-19 cases and the safety protocols in place at schools and colleges.

According to the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Centre (FCSC), over 295,000 students are pursuing higher education in the UAE. The number of students enrolled at schools is much higher.

Dubai-based research firm Alpen Capital estimates that UAE will require 150 additional schools to accommodate its growing student population, which is expected to reach 1.5 million by 2022. The demand for private education has also increased due to the influx of expats, brought about by recent government initiatives such as green visas and other business acceleration programmes.

The UAE is a big draw for not just students but also investors, thanks to newly introduced ownership laws allowing for 100 per cent foreign investor ownership of companies outside free zones. Of late, several private equity firms in the region have grown their education portfolio, with the education sector ranking second in terms of private equity transactions among all sectors in the Middle East.

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