x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

‘You’re hired’: meet the next generation of UAE entrepreneurs

UAE teachers Dallal Kahook and Mohamed Motawea led a workshop on Monday to show how they are successfully modelling their business classes after Trump’s reality-television series, The Apprentice.

Students Ameesha Gupta, 16, and Anirudh Kulkarni, 17, with their Shamzee soda invention at Zayed University in Dubai on March 24, 2014. Sarah Dea/The National
Students Ameesha Gupta, 16, and Anirudh Kulkarni, 17, with their Shamzee soda invention at Zayed University in Dubai on March 24, 2014. Sarah Dea/The National

DUBAI // You’re hired. Teachers trying to spark an entrepreneurial spirit in pupils have used perma-tanned US tycoon Donald Trump as an inspiration and model innovator.

Dallal Kahook and Mohammed Motawea led a workshop on Monday to show how they are successfully modelling their business classes after Mr Trump’s reality-television series, The Apprentice.

“Except we can’t say, ‘You’re fired’,” said Ms Kahook, a business teacher at Al Khaleej National School in Dubai.

“Or, ‘You’re suspended’,” joked Mr Motawea.

In the show, Mr Trump issues a challenge to the contestants, who are competing for a chance to be his apprentice. Each week, he dismisses a contestant by delivering his famous line: “You’re fired.”

In their demonstration, Ms Kahook and Mr Motawea instructed the teachers and pupils to create a UAE soft drink to compete with Coca-Cola.

Each team had to come up with a name, design and business plan for their Emirati cola and present it to the group.

“Yes, mint-flavoured cola,” 16-year-old Ameesha Gupta said to her fellow pupils from Delhi Private School in Dubai. “That’s awesome.”

Her team wrapped green paper around a bottle and called it Shamzee. In their winning presentation, Ameesha and her colleague Anirudh Kulkarni, 17, sold their product as “no caffeine, sugar free, with no fat as well”. It would also have an insulated can so the drink would stay cool in the heat.

The pupils were full of praise for this way of learning.

“It’s more interactive, it improves students’ skills of public speaking, debating, it helps them get exposure and how to handle their work outside, when they go abroad,” said Anirudh.

“The world wants more innovative designs, not like history or present, they want future.”

Another group of teachers, Carl Hunt and Matthew Davis, of Dubai English Speaking College, also told how they were replicating the reality television show Dragons’ Den in their economics and business classrooms.

Each year, the pupils are grouped into teams and issued a business task – in the past it was market your school. This year, it is market Expo 2020. The pupils must produce a marketing plan using the four Ps – price, place, promotion and product.

At the end of the year, the teams present their business plans to a group of “dragons”, made up of local entrepreneurs, in front of all Year-10 pupils.

“One of the key changes I think we need to do in schools is we need to engage students in other ways of learning,” said Mr Hunt, head of economics and business.

“This doesn’t mean that we throw away all the things that work well already. However, there are other parts to education, which conventional education doesn’t really address, and I think that’s where enterprise education comes in.”

The teachers’ workshops were part of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority’s (KHDA) What Works: Entrepreneurship conference on Monday. The event is one of several held throughout the year focusing on topics, such as maths and science, well-being, literacy and entrepreneurship. The events bring together teachers from across the emirate to share “what works” in their classrooms.

“What we’re finding through What Works is they’re coming with a sense of pride about their experiences, it does work, it does work in Dubai,” said Dr Abdulla Al Karam, director general of the KHDA, the education regulatory body in Dubai.

“They are coming here and they are demonstrating how they are finding the different tools and mechanisms for discovering entrepreneurship in kids at their school.”

Meanwhile, in her keynote address to the 150 teachers from 60 schools, filmmaker Amal Al Agroobi said the life of an entrepreneur isn’t an easy one but it is most rewarding.

“I can tell you that I constantly live in fear. I always think that, ‘Oh, this is never going to work out’, but somehow it always does,” said Ms Al Agroobi, whose mother is Syrian and father is Emirati.

She directed the 2012 highly praised film, Half Emirati.

“Because what I do is what I love and if you’re passionate about something, trust me, it’s going to work for you. You just have to keep going, you just have to keep challenging yourself.”

rpennington@thenational.ae