x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

UAE's education system is a model for UK, says consul general

The emirate's diverse education sector could serve as a model for far-reaching reforms being introduced in the UK, the British consul general has said.

DUBAI // The emirate's diverse education sector could serve as a model for far-reaching reforms being introduced in the UK, the British consul general said.

The shake-up of UK schools is being led by Michael Gove, Britain's secretary of state for education.

"In some ways Dubai is a model for the UK system, because what Michael Gove's education reforms are trying to achieve is a freer market for education where you can choose the kind of education that suits you and your child," said the consul general, Edward Hobart.

"Maybe your child is more suited to a classical grammar school education or ... a vocational or a drama or an arts education.

"The diversity of education offering in Dubai is in some ways quite similar. You can buy a British, American, French, Indian, Pakistani, Iranian, et cetera, et cetera, education here, but it's all regulated to a common standard."

He said the aim of the UK reforms was to provide a diverse choice of schools. "I think that model and the Dubai model have some things in common. It's a fast-growing sector, it's a young country, it's got a growing economy."

Education is a subject close to Mr Hobart's heart as he and his wife Suzie, who have three children, were among the co-founders of a school in the UK. The West London Free School is one of a new breed funded by public money but free from local authority control.

The concept is based on the charter schools idea that was developed in the United States and Sweden.

"My wife is now engaged in two school projects here using the skills she developed in setting up a free school," said Mr Hobart.

He said the UAE and the UK were very keen to push forward the education agenda.

"This is critically important to Emiratisation, to developing the young population of the UAE. The UK is a global leader in education at all levels and there is a lot of British education here ... and more are opening," he said.

"So we want to ensure we have the right approach to education which gives the UAE what it needs for its future and brings out the right bits of the UK system."

csimpson@thenational.ae