Moral education: what is expected and what it will mean for pupils
ABU DHABI // Pupils will receive 45 minutes of moral education a week when the subject is introduced into public and private schools next academic year.
Classes will cover 62 units involving four main themes: character and morality; civic studies; cultural studies; and the individual and the community.
Details of the project, announced last year, were made public at an education conference in Abu Dhabi.
“When we all worked together to design this programme, we thought, ‘we’re not going to build this for the Emirati student, we’re going to build this for every single student in the country, regardless of nationality’,” said Tariq Al Otaiba, senior associate at the Crown Prince Court’s office of strategic affairs.
“We’re looking at the individual in the community, where we encourage students to develop their individuality and a sense of awareness of their belonging in the community.”
The course is an initiative of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.
It is being designed by the court, the Abu Dhabi Education Council, the Ministry of Education and Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority.
Grades 1 to 9 will adopt the subject after summer.
The civics section is a practical guide to life in the UAE for citizens and expats.
Cultural studies will cover UAE history and customs, and offer lessons on international cultures, said Sara Al Suwaidi, section manager at the Abu Dhabi regulator.
“One of the learning outcomes of moral education is being able to display tolerance for other cultures,” Ms Al Suwaidi said. “What we are trying to do is remove judgments.
“We need to understand the culture, to respect it and to understand that it adds to our own culture, and then learn from one another.”
Public schools will be given clear instructions on how to deliver moral education but private schools will have the flexibility to adapt the subject as they see fit, as long as they meet certain criteria and learning objectives.
“We’re leaving it to qualified people and to their staff to determine the best approach to teach this subject,” Mr Al Otaiba said.
Private schools are encouraged to integrate elements of moral education into a variety of subjects, but they cannot teach it as part of Islamic studies. “It can’t be merged with Islamic studies because this course is universal,” he said. “You can’t teach it through the eye of Islamic studies because it automatically alienates non-Muslim children and we want this to be applied to everyone.”
Since January, nine schools in Abu Dhabi and 10 in Dubai and the Northern Emirates have introduced pilot programmes for the subject. A select number of high schools will adopt it next academic year.
Brendan Law, headmaster at Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, which took part in the pilot, said it had gone well.
Many international schools already have life skills or pastoral development classes embedded in their curriculums, which could be adapted to fit the objectives of moral education, Mr Law said.
“For a school that has never had anything like that in their development before, they will have to rework and rethink their curriculum to ensure at least 45 minutes gets allocated a week,” he said.
Private schools will also be given the freedom to choose which teachers deliver moral education classes.
“You are looking for a teacher who isn’t judgmental, who accepts others, who is open to other cultures, religions, values and beliefs, and who is willing to listen to others,” Ms Al Suwaidi said.
Updated: April 26, 2017 04:00 AM