Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 31 March 2020

Global Women's Forum Dubai: UAE pupils could soon 'order lessons' as easily as hailing an Uber, official says

The chief executive of Dubai Future Foundation believes the traditional school day will be overtaken by technology

The traditional school day could make way for an Uber-style model of education on demand, a Dubai official said. Chris Whiteoak/The National
The traditional school day could make way for an Uber-style model of education on demand, a Dubai official said. Chris Whiteoak/The National

The traditional UAE school day could soon be consigned to the past, paving the way for Uber-style education on demand.

Khalfan Belhoul, chief executive of Dubai Future Foundation, said rapid advances in technology would allow students to takes lessons at any time and any place.

Rather than attend classes from 8am to 3pm at school or university, learners could instead cherry-pick their lessons to suit their own schedules.

Setting your own time table could be just as simple as hailing a taxi, believes Mr Belhoul, who was speaking on the sidelines of the Global Women's Forum Dubai.

“Education will be uberised as technology continues to advance," said the DFF chief, whose organisation was set up to help shape the strategies of tomorrow in the emirate.

“Educationists, content providers and pupils can meet any time of the day. Growth and progress of technology will not be confined to a few hours.

“If a child wants to study calculus at 4am he will be able to do that without stepping out of the house. A school day will be less and less relevant.”

The DFF is working with the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, Dubai’s private schools regulator, to work on an education system for the future.

Technologies like artificial intelligence and virtual reality are already making their way into education, with blockchain set to follow.

“I can say education will be heavily disrupted in the UAE in the next five years,” said Mr Belhoul.

“Access to content is much easier now. It’s just a matter of verifying that content, validating it and connecting the right people. We have to put a structure in place.

Khalfan Belhoul, chief executive of Dubai Future Foundation, spoke out about the changing face of education at Global Women's Forum Dubai. Courtesy: World Economic Forum    
Khalfan Belhoul, chief executive of Dubai Future Foundation. Courtesy: World Economic Forum

“Let’s take the case of Rahhal. It’s a flexible, accessible and sustainable model available to all.”

Rahhal is a project that offers an alternative to mainstream education.

It can be customised to the needs of each learner and the content comes from private sector organisations, volunteering and community groups. The programme is supported by employers to ensure education will match the skill sets that students will need.

“We can’t forget the Dubai Metro idea when it first launched. Despite being driverless, we had to put a human just to make sure people felt comfortable. The same kind of disruption in education is not too far away,” said Mr Belhoul.

The UAE government is pushing ahead with efforts to harness blockchain technology, including in the education sector.

Blockchain, a digital record-keeper secured using unique ‘fingerprints’, promises to have far-reaching implications for global trade and supply chains.

Education will be uberised as technology continues to advance

Khalfan Belhoul, Dubai Future Foundation

On the federal level, the UAE is aiming to have half of all government transactions conducted using blockchain by 2021. Already 80 per cent of public and private sector entities are using the technology, according to a joint study by DFF, the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the World Economic Forum.

Educhain, a blockchain company, launched an education pilot project in 2018 with the support of more than a dozen institutions in Dubai and across the globe.

The University of Dubai, Zayed University, Academia Management Solutions International, Mena College of Management, Horizon School are among those part of the project using technology for seamless exchange and attestations of academic records.

Supported by KHDA and DFF, the project enables pupils and students to request and receive secure digital records to an academic passport. They can view, manage and share them for school transfers, university applications and job applications.

Updated: February 17, 2020 03:02 AM

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