x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Technological tools are vital for schools

Students must cultivate computer literacy from the very beginning.

Students at schools in the UAE will compete for jobs in a global labour market. An ability to use computers and to navigate the oceans of information on the internet will be prerequisites for employment. If the UAE hopes to build a knowledge economy, it must start in its schools. Students must cultivate computer literacy from the very beginning.

Far too many students in the UAE lack access to the internet and other technological tools, especially at government schools. The resources that they do have are frequently out of date. And while all government schools in the country are to receive wireless internet connectivity and new equipment within the next three years, as we report today, the need for these updates is immediate.

It is encouraging that 50 government schools will receive new hardware and software this year, including tablet PCs and e-learning laboratories that are being fitted with computers and laptops. Teachers will be able to avail themselves of technological tools as they teach and develop their lesson plans. But it is just as important that students themselves learn to use computers as they complete research and science projects and develop their writing skills. As Natasha Ridge, a researcher in education policy at the Dubai School of Government, says, the use of computers and the internet should not be confined to IT classes. As it stands today, however, most government schools have only one centralised computer lab for the entire school.

The cost of computers and internet access, along with interruptions in service, are additional reasons why schools have placed less of an emphasis on information technologies. One principal reported that even though his school paid Dh4,000 to Dh5,000 each month to an internet provider, disruptions in service were common. This is an obstacle to learning that the Government can correct in the short term.

At a time when schools are implementing a variety of other reforms that cost money, the Government can work with internet providers and with other companies in the private sector to make technological upgrades and internet access more affordable. For the country to accomplish its long-term ambitions, it can ill afford not to make this a priority.