Academic years begin with excitement and panic for parents and children alike. The thrill of learning and exploring new vistas is coupled with anxiety about finding the right school. Parents are typically on the lookout for schools with a proven track record of overall excellence and a fee bracket that won't break the bank. Until recently, this was the case in the UAE. But as The National reported earlier this week, the pendulum has swung the other way. The UAE's private school sector has registered a massive growth over the past half decade. And so where once parents scrambled in desperation for a limited number of school places, it is now the schools that may be forced to do the bidding for parents' attention.
Dubai is now home to 283 international schools, the highest in the world. Abu Dhabi, home to 154, is not far behind. As a whole, the UAE, the 94th most populous nation on Earth, has more than 600,000 pupils enrolled in international schools alone, beating China, the world’s most populous country. With the growth in schools comes the expansion of curriculum.
The UAE's strong position is not an accident but the product of a concrete vision for a knowledge-based post-oil economy. The Government of the UAE recognises the indispensability of quality early education to the creation of an astute, dynamic and conscientious citizenry capable not only of coping with the formidable challenges of the future but also of turning them to their advantage. In this endeavour, the contribution of teachers is of paramount importance. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, emphasised this very point in a rich tribute to the UAE's teachers published on his Twitter feed on the occasion of World Teachers' Day on Thursday. In a video produced to mark the day, Sheikh Mohammed reminded viewers that the young, who are the future of the country, are being moulded by its teachers, and expressed gratitude to the teachers for playing a "major role in getting our children to where they are now". For this "is how nations are built, by focusing on quality, on competency, rather than quantity".
The UAE now has a reformed code of conduct for students and pupils and earlier this year, the Mohammed bin Zayed Award for Best GCC Teacher was launched with prizes worth Dh6 million. The value the UAE places on children's education is reflected, too, in the initiative announced on Wednesday by Dubai Cares, which will fund a Dh4.5 million project over three years to train 17,000 teachers in Uganda, and in Qudwa, the Global Teachers' Forum, which will host teachers from across the world to incubate new ideas to revolutionise the profession. The UAE's pupils are a source of pride. And the nation owes its thanks to its teachers.
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