The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) describes education as “the world’s greatest renewable resource, fundamental human right, and public good” and I couldn’t agree more. I would add that education is also one of the key foundations of any successful nation, and perhaps also one of the greatest personal investments one can make in their lifetime. I believe the same holds true in terms of the importance of a creative and cultural education, for the development of a strong and sustainable economy.
A lot has been said about the importance of introducing arts and creativity in school curricula around the world, and in this context, I do believe there are not many topics as hotly debated as an education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (Stem) versus Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics (Steam).
Many parents, with their children’s best interests at heart, believe that for them to succeed later in life, they need to study Stem topics, while subjects such as arts, music, or creative writing can be looked down upon. This is, perhaps, not too surprising, as artists, musicians, or poets are not seen as particularly “employable” in today’s job market, nor are their professions known to yield large salaries on average. But people can tend to overlook the fact that creative subjects can teach more life skills than just the theory of painting, poetry or music.
The value of these artistic subjects lies not in the job prospects but rather in the fact that they teach creativity and can develop the imagination – skills which are invaluable across all disciplines. Just think, for example, of a scientist working in cancer research. There is no procedure or playbook for making medical discoveries; one must experiment and explore alternative solutions. One must try over and over again to discover new, different and untapped avenues; to sometimes think unconventionally to achieve breakthroughs.
And for anyone to be successful in their careers, they need to be able to tap into their imaginations. For societies to thrive, people need a comprehensive education and this includes an education in creativity. As such, I believe it is essential that artistic disciplines become a part of our children’s formative years. It is about developing and encouraging creativity and imagination so that they become fundamental skills for all.
The value and importance of a strong education in the arts has become only more apparent over the years. While Dubai’s creative sector has grown exponentially, we must now think about making it sustainable. And I believe for this we need to focus on the next generation. For us to be able to further grow and develop Dubai’s cultural scene and, what is more, make us stand out amongst regional and global peers, it is critical we invest in the education of the next generation of cultural practitioners, and indeed their educators.
Finally, in addition to benefiting our own creative economy and cultural sector, a strong educational system for art and culture also allows us to attract foreign talent and reaffirm Dubai’s position as a cultural hub in the region. A beautiful example of this is the Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation (Didi). Launched in 2018 and located in the city’s design hub, D3, the design school has quite organically become a part of Dubai’s existing community of designers and innovators. It has provided an interesting and dynamic alternative to the more traditional centres for design education, such as Milan or New York. A growing local design scene helps students in so many ways. Dubai provides them with ample job opportunities, and gives the benefit of a location that is as a regional and global hub.
From nurturing creative skills, to building a foundation for our creative economy, to using educational excellence as a magnet for global talent, I cannot stress enough the importance of art, culture, and creativity. These disciplines must be a part of our youth’s educational framework, as well as a part of our own ongoing development.
This is not about having more artists, musicians, and writers enter the workforce, but it is about building a strong and sustainable future in Dubai that we aspire to. And to be able to achieve that, it is vital that we learn, grow and become the well-rounded personalities we all seek to be.
This is, of course, not a new idea here in the UAE, and I am often reminded by the words of my father, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai: “The present and future generations of our country are the top priority of all development plans.”
Today, I urge all of us to follow his lead to lay the foundations for our own and our nation’s continued success.