There is a recognition in the UAE that the future is not about resources and commodities, but ideas. That is why the country is rapidly implementing a string of impressive education plans designed to prepare its youngsters for the challenges that lie ahead. As the country's leadership already has, teachers need to embrace, not fear, advances in technology, including artificial intelligence and robotics, to prepare their pupils for the futuristic job markets in which they will compete. And educators across the nation received a boost this week, when Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid announced on Monday, while on a visit to the Northern Emirates, that a new generation of schools – containing laboratories for artificial intelligence, robotics, health and the environment, as well as state of the art sport facilities – will be constructed in the UAE at a cost of Dh1.5 billion.
“The UAE school is a centre for the future,” the Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai said. “Our students are the leaders of the future of the UAE.” A plan was also announced to turn “colleges into economic zones” and a Dh100 million fund launched to nurture students for careers in hospitality, retail, oil and gas, and logistics. Not only will these measures benefit young people in the long run, it will also improve the nation’s economy at large, by allowing citizens and residents to stay one step ahead as the world changes around them.
Sheikh Mohammed has long been a champion of improving education standards in Dubai and beyond, and these announcements are the latest in a series of dynamic proposals. Indian High School Dubai made headlines last month by liberating children for a day and a half a week to pursue hobbies and interests out of the classroom, with the aim of fostering innovative thinking and creativity. As The National reported last week, the Knowledge and Human Development authority has received a torrent of requests from schools with similar proposals. Other schools are considering the introduction of educational video games into the classroom. It should not come as a big surprise, given the UAE's clear intent to embrace innovations in healthcare, governance, the military and elsewhere, but few countries are doing more than the UAE to prepare their students for the future.
As eight-year-old Dubai pupil Adam El Rafey told The National last week, school curriculums must allow space for more relevant subjects. It was that message that Sheikh Mohammed took to the Northern Emirates this week – that a modern education system is not entirely dependent on information retention, but on fostering creativity and innovation. The new generation of educational institutions will do just that, and the country stands to benefit as a result.