x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

No greater need than reform of nation's schools

The boldness of the Ministry of Education's Strategy 2010-2020 reflects the urgent need of the nation's schools for reform.

The boldness of the Ministry of Education's Strategy 2010-2020 reflects the urgent need of the nation's schools for reform. Unveiled this week, the plan outlines how schools must change from top to bottom how they prepare pupils for higher education and professional life. The strategy proposes the integration of children with disabilities into public schools, higher qualifications for teachers, and the end of remedial foundation courses, among its other reforms.

Highlighting the need to adopt a "student-centric" model successful in other nations, the MOE has looked to the policies of France, the UK, Japan and Singapore to shape its new strategy. But the policies it proposes also speak to this country's specific needs. It recommends the hiring of more male Emirati schoolteachers and the promotion of national identity in both public and private schools. The merits of such a far-reaching proposal can only be measured by its implementation. Other visions have been offered before. This plan replaces one introduced two years ago which had also set goals for 2020 and schools have seen only marginal improvement since then. While this reveals the need for a new strategy, it also testifies to the difficulty of carrying out the fundamental overhaul of any institution. The reforms it introduces will also raise new challenges. For instance, the plan says that schools should adopt an English-language curriculum, but this will cause them to recalibrate their efforts to ensure that students are fluent in Arabic.

The strategy now rests with the stakeholders themselves. But a more comprehensive understanding of who is included among the stakeholders will be critical to the effort's success. The entire nation's future depends on the success of its education system and the scope of the challenge requires that teachers and students are not the only ones committed to making sure schools work. By requesting comment from the community, the Ministry of Education shows that it recognises this.

Parents must be engaged in the education of their children and understand how they can play a part in making the reforms successful. Government must stay engaged with the effort by providing the right structure, guidance and resources for schools as the strategy is implemented. Even the private sector can play a role by showing students how what is taught in the classroom is relevant in the real world.

Presenting the right strategy is a good beginning. To ensure its success, the entire nation must be engaged in what is truly a national challenge.