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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

Chinese academic system can only benefit UAE students

It will complement existing systems and enable students to have the best of many worlds

The arrival of the Chinese academic system on these shores can only be a benefit.
The arrival of the Chinese academic system on these shores can only be a benefit.

The UAE offers a wealth of educational opportunities. The schools alone span the gamut from British and Indian to Japanese and American. And the opening in 2010 of New York University in Abu Dhabi confirmed the UAE’s status as a global learning hub. In this rich landscape of learning, China is conspicuous by its absence.

It is curious that in this diverse country, home to more than a quarter of a million Chinese expatriates, there are no Chinese schools. A Dh120m project to build a Chinese school in Dubai was announced two years ago, but its doors have not yet opened. This is all the more striking given the strides that the Chinese academic system has made over the last couple of decades.

Chinese pupils have consistently scored high marks in the annual worldwide science and maths tests organised by the OECD. Primary school administrators in Britain this year began importing maths textbooks from Shanghai, acknowledging their content to be superior to anything produced in Europe. And dozens of Chinese tutors are invited each year to teach British pupils. China has attained a worldwide reputation for academic rigour. But there are criticisms – chief among them is the complaint that China promotes rote learning. Moreover, the fact that China lags behind other large economies in innovation adds to the charge that its educational system is of limited utility.

Valid though such criticisms are, they must not distract us from the very real achievements of China in the field of education. It has endowed pupils with the skills, ability and knowledge – particularly in maths and science – to navigate a rapidly changing world. The UAE is already attracting Chinese students. Earlier this year, six universities in Dubai offered, between them, 600 scholarships to Chinese students. The arrival of the Chinese academic system on these shores can only be a benefit. It will complement the existing systems. Students will be able to have the best of many worlds.

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