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From left, Emirati academic Dr Abdullah Al Shaiba; Dr Sulaiman Al Jassim, a former vice president of Zayed University; and Dr Howard Alper, chairman of the Science, Technology and Innovation Council in Canada, at the fourth Education Conference yesterday. Ravindranath K / The National
From left, Emirati academic Dr Abdullah Al Shaiba; Dr Sulaiman Al Jassim, a former vice president of Zayed University; and Dr Howard Alper, chairman of the Science, Technology and Innovation Council in Canada, at the fourth Education Conference yesterday. Ravindranath K / The National

UAE education conference pushes innovation

Innovation in curriculum will empower the students of the future, attendees at the Fourth Education Conference in Abu Dhabi were told.

ABU DHABI // Innovative education must be introduced in schools to better arm pupils for challenges of the future, a conference heard on Tuesday.

Such education focuses on teaching students different subjects, for example science, mathematics, architecture and literature, as different aspects of a single project.

“To talk about the youth in innovation and education is in reality talking about the future of the nation,” said Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development.

“We are promoting the capabilities of society to deal effectively with the challenges in this era – the challenges of the economy, social transference, changes of the environment, the future of energy all over the world, the developing role of sciences and techniques, as well as national identity.”

Sheikh Nahyan was speaking on Tuesday at the opening ceremony of the fourth Education Conference.

The forum was told that introducing innovative education would require research and teacher training.

“People spend too much time thinking about what the teachers do and not enough time investing in how they learn,” said Philippa Cordingley, chief executive of the Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in Education in the UK.

“Research shows that when teachers get the chance to learn properly and deeply, then they can make that happen to young people.”

To achieve that, researchers must find the strongest practice in the UAE and pass it on to teachers.

“Teachers are infectious,” said Ms Cordingley. “Good practice really travels so it’s about spotting the best, amplifying it, linking it to a large evidence base about what really works for young people and then investing in the learning of teachers alongside that.

“A teacher’s job is to understand the curriculum, the pupils and their starting points well enough to spot anything that might block learning and remove it.

“The school leadership’s job is to spot the curriculum and the opportunities in the children’s lives to provide a rich learning environment.”

Schools will also have to work together, the conference was told.

“We need transparency and accountability,” said Hind Al Mualla, chief of engagement at Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority.

“What we’re trying to do is develop students from a holistic point of view and innovation is one aspect of it.

“It’s about doing things better and we need to cater to the learners’ needs because innovation is one of the most important factors for future development of growth in any sector.”

And in an increasingly globalised world, innovation is a way towards strengthening education.

“The world is changing so fast,” Ms Cordingley said. “We all have to live innovative lives, never mind innovative curriculum.

“But you can’t just rely on old ways of doing things and if society is going to face serious challenges, we all have to do it.”

The Government hopes that through innovative education, the next generation will be able to contribute to the nation’s development.

“We know that this education that we’re aspiring towards needs work and efforts from all parts of society,” said Sheikh Nahyan.

“We need to remember that we live in a globalised world and education issues are similar everywhere.

“Thus, we need to be open-minded to all experiences and good practices, and we need to thrive so that our schools, colleges and universities are international in all means, because this is the right way for them to be tools to transform and achieve the full potential of our society, in terms of development and advancement on a global level.”

cmalek@thenational.ae

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