Schoolchildren in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain are to receive a new lesson in life: Islamic finance.
Al Hilal Bank has teamed up with Emirates National Schools to offer special Islamic banking and economics courses on the school curriculum, as part of a push by the Ministry of Presidential Affairsto promote financial literacy.
The bank hopes fostering awareness of Islamic finance among young children will help it participate in Abu Dhabi 2030 Economic Vision development plan, said Mohammed Berro, the bank's chief executive.
"We have a role to play as a bank, as an Islamic bank that makes sure that the new generation of 2030 is well versed financially, in Islamic banking, and will take Abu Dhabi - inshallah - to more successes after 2030," he said.
"We're shaping a new generation that's responsible. And this is a way of avoiding some of the issues that we have today in our financial transactions."
Al Hilal Bank is fully owned by the Abu Dhabi Investment Council, a government investment fund.
Emirates National Schools plans to "infuse" Islamic finance throughout its curriculum for all of its 5,800 students at its three campuses in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain from kindergarten age to 12 years old.
"If this can avoid some of the problems of the world in the future, that's what we're looking for," said Kenneth David Vedra, the company's director general. "Kids can become good managers of their funds and better workers in the economy. The younger you start building that foundation, the better."
The growth of Islamic finance is accelerating at a rapid pace from almost nothing 40 years ago, when Dubai Islamic Bank became the first commercial Sharia-compliant lender.
Standard & Poor's said last week it expected the global market for Islamic finance will double to US$2.6 trillion (Dh9.54tn) by 2015.
A number of Middle East nations have liberalised their approach to Islamic finance in an effort to develop these markets, especially in the wake of the Arab Spring that swept some republican governments from power.
Tunisia plans to start issuing sukuk next year, while Libya is facing demand for a new Sharia banking framework.
Meanwhile, Oman has recently started licensing Islamic banks.