Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 17 November 2019

UAE minister calls for education revamp as Middle East embraces learning revolution

Schools must prepare pupils for the digital workforce and make them more tolerant and compassionate, conference hears

Jameela Al Muhairi, Minister of State for Public Education, speaks during the Global Educational Supplies and Solutions conference. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Jameela Al Muhairi, Minister of State for Public Education, speaks during the Global Educational Supplies and Solutions conference. Chris Whiteoak / The National

A UAE education minister has called on schools to revamp their teaching methods - as an education revolution gathers pace across the Middle East.

Jameela Al Muhairi, Minister of State for Public Education, said it was the "responsibility" of schools to not only guide learners towards academic success but make them more well-rounded members of society.

During an address at the Global Educational Supplies and Solutions conference, held at Dubai World Trade Centre, the minister also urged teachers to have an eye on the future by embracing advances in technology, including artificial intelligence, to prepare pupils for the workplace.

Her call came as Egypt's education minister told the conference the country had rebuilt its education system from "scratch" in order for pupils to successfully tackle the challenges of life after the classroom.

It is part of a growing trend of countries rethinking their approach to education, including in the Gulf region.

Only in December, Bahrain announced plans for schools will no longer assign homework to pupils, starting this year.

The country's strategy follow the Finnish model of education, which led to pupils improving their performance in global rankings after the implementation of a no homework rule.

"There are different aspects of using technology and artificial intelligence, block chain and big data and, it is imperative to study them and see how they can be used to develop teaching and learning," said Ms Al Muhairi.

"Our responsibility is not just to educate pupils in a contemporary manner but also to develop tolerance and societies that are aware.

"We will not succeed until we focus on people mentally and intellectually to ensure that they are responsible citizens.

"Our responsibility lies not only in educating students in modern education but also in preparing compassionate, tolerant generations who are fully aware of what is going on around them.

"They will be responsible individuals who will make the right choices. This is the principle of lifelong learning that we want our schools to develop in our pupils."

As part of this effort, schools in the country will soon be introducing a diploma in tolerance studies.

Egypt is currently implementing an Education 2.0 plan, through which it is reforming education in the country.

The strict division between subjects have been removed and the focus on examinations cut back.

Dr Tarek Shawki, Egypt's education minister, shared his vision for his country's new education model during the Global Educational Supplies and Solutions. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Dr Tarek Shawki, Egypt's education minister, shared his vision for his country's new education model during the Global Educational Supplies and Solutions. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Dr Tarek Shawki, minister of education and technical education of Egypt, said the new education model was necessary to help children succeed in an ever-evolving job market.

“We have more than 22 million pupils in primary education, three million students in universities. We decided to rebuild the education system from scratch in Egypt in response to future needs as we need to equip children for future jobs," he said.

"Reforming education is not sufficient. Building the future requires Education 2.0."

The country has put together a curriculum framework and trained teachers in the new approach. Kindergarten to grade 1 classes are already using the new system.

The minister said it was important to move away from an obsession with getting good grades to secure university places.

"The objective was grades and not getting an education. We decided to put an end to this mindset and we have greater digital content," he said.

All exams will be open-book, in a shift from from traditional memory-based tests.

“All that was traditional was completely replaced. This new education system is a great education revolution."

Egypt has moved away from the strict separation of subjects and is moving towards a multidisciplinary approach.

“We found a huge leap from accumulating knowledge to acquiring skills.

"Pupils are taught about identity, personality, and asked to reflect on their history, the history of their people and on global issues.

"This education 2.0 aims for pupils to be leaders in the fourth industrial revolution," said Mr Shawki.

Updated: February 27, 2019 04:50 PM

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