Computer skills from Year 3: How students as young as 7 in UAE are being prepared for careers

Our children are learning things we did in our 20s, parents say


Nandini Sircar

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Published: Sat 23 Sep 2023, 6:00 AM

Many schools in the UAE are teaching young students Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint and using other multimedia resources as early as Year 3, highlighting a fast-changing education landscape.

Head teachers explain initial exposure to these software tools equips students for their future careers, since Excel and PowerPoint find extensive application across diverse professional fields.

Additionally, it imparts the essential skill of working collaboratively, which holds significant importance in a professional environment, in later years.

James McDonald, Principal/CEO, GEMS Wesgreen International School – Sharjah said, “Introducing Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint in early education, around Year 3, offer substantial benefits to students. These tools foster digital literacy, equipping students with the skills to navigate software interfaces, use menus and tools, and grasp basic computer functions.”

Headteachers explain in recent years, education has seen significant changes compared to their own learning years. Digital devices like laptops and tablets are now commonplace in schools, providing access to online resources and digital textbooks.

“Excel enhances problem-solving abilities, teaching logical thinking and data organisation, which are valuable across various subjects. It also cultivates data analysis skills, enabling students to interpret data and identify trends. PowerPoint promotes creativity and presentation skills, teaching students how to structure content, incorporate visuals, and communicate effectively,” he added.

BYOD ushers in technology-focus for younger year groups

Online learning platforms, coding education, and immersive technologies like virtual reality have emerged. STEM education, personalised learning, and internet-based research are also prevalent.

Wayne Howsen, Principal, The Aquila School said, “We do want children to be able to confidently use Microsoft tools but don’t want them to spend hours in school facing a screen. We do make sure our primary children are able to use slides. Our younger children often use PowerPoint slides in their leadership time, where they are tasked with sharing a skill with their peers.”

“When I started teaching in the early 1990s there was one computer in a class — a BBC B — that children would use for games such as Granny’s Garden, when they had finished their work. How things have changed, with the concept of one device per child and BYOD (bring your own device),” he added.

Technology has become more affordable now

Principals highlight technology has become more affordable now, allowing more students to benefit from it.

This has enabled students to conduct better research and engage in more experiential learning.

Nav Iqbal, Principal/CEO of GEMS Metropole School – Motor City, said, “There is a frequent need in many roles to portray data in specific formats, whether that be for organisation, understanding, or use in key decisions, both in an employment context or within a business.”

He emphasizes nowadays, it is crucial for students to become IT literate from a young age, “and learn how to use tools like Excel for data organisation or PowerPoint for effective presentations. This is an excellent and useful skill for young people to begin learning during their primary education.”

What do parents feel about this change?

Arijit Nandi whose son goes to an IB school in Dubai says, “Frankly, I was a little taken aback when my son’s school sent an email stating that they want us to download Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint on his school ipad. My son is only seven years old. This was completely new to me. I was thinking what presentations he will make at this age. But I completely understand that times have changed, and schools may want to teach pupils these skills early on in life.”

Parents explain what they learnt in their 20’s and 30’s, children today are learning the same, in their single digit years.

“I feel this is a huge shift from what we learnt and also a reminder of the fact that the methods of learning have changed to a great extent after digitalization of communication has happened,” Nandi added.

Reduced paper usage and integration of apps in schools

Some parents highlight reduced paper usage and the integration of apps in schools has brought about significant changes in the way students and parents interact with educational institutions.

French expat, Marie Dubois, said, “For me a big change is the use of apps in schools. We used to have school diaries, where our mothers would check our homework (by looking through it). These days there are a list of school apps that need to be downloaded on your child’s device and we need to log into those apps like Toddle, Seasaw, among others, to watch videos and photos and for homework management."

"Another change that I see in my older son is unlike earlier times, students don’t use the good old calculators anymore. They instead use their devices for big calculations. So, the traditional calculators are fast fading away due to these new devices.”

American expat in the UAE, and a parent of two children, Shukri Deria, explained another way that has changed is the way children study.

“My children go to an IB curriculum school, and I don’t see a lot of tests and exams. It’s more about developing your critical thinking faculties, being a risk taker and these children have the confidence from an early age to stand and do a presentation because of what and how they are taught. I don’t think at their age, we were so comfortable with such a thing,” she added.


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