x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

The Ali Column: Education is key to the growth of the nation

Why learning is part of our national growth and development.

I was recently invited to my elementary school reunion, which was a very exciting occasion for me. I had been looking forward to hooking up with all my old classmates and teachers and exchanging our "life stories". At the reunion, I met my old pal Ahmed. I hadn't seen him for years and was impressed to hear that he worked for an educational institution in Abu Dhabi, but then I remembered that he had always excelled at school.

When I told him about how monotonous I had found maths and how tedious I had found memorising the contents of a textbook, he agreed with a grin. In fact, he was amused and told me that schools in the UAE no longer use the "rote memorisation" teaching method. When I asked him why, he said that in 2010, the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) had introduced an education plan called the New School Model (NSM) that is focused on a variety of interactive materials and active learning methods, such as "exploration and experiment".

This means using modern technology to improve and elevate the quality of education in the UAE, both for pupils and teachers. Wow, I would have enjoyed such an interesting class when I was at school, but then I would not be where I am today.

It would appear the reasoning behind this new strategy is to approach pupils in a certain way. Teachers should perceive them as "capable learners" and treat them equally. Scientific research into teaching has proven this should lead to a successful education system.

Talking to my teachers again confirmed how much investment in education is not only vital for one's intellect but also necessary for the success of our society and culture as a whole. Our beloved Sheikh Zayed enforced this way of thinking; that we should strive for more knowledge, development and most of all "self-improvement" so that the future of our country is secured on a local and global level.

Due to our country striving for a good education system that offers more opportunities to everyone, one does not even have to travel abroad anymore to obtain a university degree.

Our country will continue to face challenges in the future, especially when it comes to preserving our national identity and culture with an education system that is now based more on the English language and international standards.

This brings along cultural values and norms that are not of Emirati nature. The best way to deal with this is to help each other become successful, despite the different backgrounds our society has. Why not share our strengths with each other? This will demonstrate appreciation for the possibilities that exist in our country. We just need to learn to utilise them appropriately, and such a social development can only be done with the support of our government, teachers and parents.

We as Emiratis are proud to be life-long learners, but we need to understand that learning is part of our national growth. So, let's continue to grow as a nation and display our diverse potentials for everyone to benefit from them. Education is a tool to free one's mind and broaden one's horizons. It is like a magnifying glass: it makes one recognise how interesting and colourful life is.