x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Consistent policies recipe for success

Improved ability in English a sign that education reforms are working

Education has never been the sector for those who seek instant gratification, despite the understandable clamour for progress to happen faster.

The UAE knows well of the need to play the long game. From having one of the lowest rates of literacy in the world only a couple of generations ago, this nation is striving to create a citizenry that will be capable of operating on a global stage.

That is a mammoth undertaking but the success of the UAE in the future will rest in large part on whether the education system can achieve that goal.

Inevitably, this has not been an easy process and there have been plenty of calls for the progress to occur faster. The temptation is to abandon the existing education strategy to try out an alternative theory in the hope that it will achieve that.

All of this adds significance to the news, reported in The National yesterday, that young Emiratis have done appreciably better in English proficiency this year after five years of static results.

Significantly, the improvements in the Common English Proficiency Examination are most pronounced in government schools. It also occurred in all the emirates and among both boys and girls.

This improvement has major flow-on effects, such as freeing the budgets of federal universities that previously had to spend up to a third of their budget on a foundation year to bring many of their students' English skills up to standard before embarking on the degree course work.

However, these are still early days. And those behind the study caution these are just the results of one year and might not translate into a long-term trend. Results in mathematics, for example, continue to lag behind.

But these green shoots of progress have to be applauded. The Abu Dhabi Education Council has been prominent in its commitment to education reform and can take encouragement from the emirate's Western Region recording the single biggest improvement in English proficiency of the UAE's 10 education zones.

Does this mean the education authorities can ease off? Of course not. No matter what the gains, there is still a call for it to happen better and faster. But this does show the nation is heading in the right direction.