x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

UAE schools 'must pull together to improve the private system'

More than 500 school teachers and leaders convened on Monday at Zayed University to discuss innovative teaching solutions, at the What Works conference organised by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority.

DUBAI // School workers have been asked to put aside competition and work together to improve the private education system.

More than 500 school teachers and leaders convened yesterday at Zayed University to discuss innovative teaching solutions, at the What Works conference organised by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA).

Dr Abdulla Al Karam, director general of the KHDA, said schools needed to discuss solutions rather than problems.

"There is this perceived competition in education," he said. "Schools have not had the chance in the past to come together and find those solutions. This is a starting point."

Principals of schools that are achieving results in Arabic and Islamic studies, special-needs support and self-evaluation shared tips with staff of other schools at the conference.

Dr Sonia ben Jaafar, director of EduEval Educational Services told the conference teachers should develop networks or learning communities to help them collaborate.

"These communities will support knowledge sharing and creation," said Dr ben Jaafar. "This is what's required for sustainable school improvement."

She quoted several studies that found schools taking part in networking programmes achieved better results for pupils.

"The key here was also the changes in thinking and practices in the schools," Dr ben Jaafar said.

Dr Samia Al Farra, chief education officer at Taaleem education group, said this was the first time "all school were talking to each other, rather than focusing on the competition".

"The partnership wall, where teachers posted their areas of strength, filled up rapidly," Dr Al Farra said. "For example, teachers at an Indian school offered to share their practices in IT and English in exchange for expertise at another school in Arabic."

High school pupils were also given a chance to say how they would like to be taught and prepared for the future.

Taahir Munshi, of Jumeirah College, spoke on the need to promote more creative and analytical thinking in schools.

"We have to ditch the marks-orientated education," Taahir said. "Schools should focus on the self-pursuit of knowledge."

The What Works conference will become an annual event, the KHDA said.

aahmed@thenational.ae