the women’s majlis Students need a hunger to learn

Each month, Weekend will pose a different question to be debated by a series of female Emirati columnists. This month, we ask Mariam Al Qubaisi:

Do you feel the school systems, both public and postsecondary, are adequate for learning? What would you change, if anything?

If you asked me this question a few years ago, I would definitely have answered with a loud “no”. However today, and informed by my limited (yet growing) experience, I feel that public high school systems are indeed adequate for learning. The real question, I feel, is how keen are the students for learning?

I believe that learning on a high-school level is the product of well-channelled resources towards educating eager students. I really emphasise the enthusiasm and readiness of students to learn. You need both – the resources and the interest in learning – to realise an adequate level of education.

Generally, there seems to be a complacent attitude towards education by Emiratis from both private and public systems. This is probably inspired by the prevalent notion that high-ranked, well-paid jobs await us all as Emiratis; and an education at this stage is a mere accessory. But complacency is the enemy of success.

I feel that we need to breed a new attitude towards education to make our students keen to acquire knowledge and excel at it, to better serve themselves and, of course, serve our country. This is affirmed in the words of our President, Sheikh Khalifa: “A true commitment to tapping all of the available work fields, combined with a high enthusiasm for acquiring knowledge, broadening horizons and benefiting from modern science, is necessary for the UAE to succeed in taking a forward step into the 21st century.”

To this end, we need to inspire a significant amount of enthusiasm in our students and emphasise the role of education as a tool for success, and not an accessory to justify employment. The introduction and promotion of national or international role models, whether contemporary or historical, is important to make success a tangible and realisable target.

As well, education should be a lifelong and daily process that does not stay within the walls of schools. Students need to network with potential role models for inspiration. I would personally like to see many community workspaces such as libraries equipped with books, study areas, meeting rooms and food/drink facilities to allow for students to interact with other students (from different schools – public and private), study, share knowledge, host events/speakers, etc. I recall the Cultural Foundation in Abu Dhabi once offered such as service; however, it is undergoing renovation and we’ve since heard of no interim arrangement.

Perhaps our education systems are good enough as far the school and basic learning is concerned, but I question whether our students are interested enough to learn.

Mariam Al-Qubaisi teaches Environmental Science at Zayed University and is co-founder of the Arab Innovation Network, a youth initiative that aims to empower research and innovation in the Arab world.

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