Good grades alone are not enough to produce good citizens – nor do they guarantee well-being. In a bid to tackle this issue, Jameela Al Muhairi, Minister of State for Public Education, reminded schools of their responsibility not only to guide learners towards academic success, but also to make them more responsible, compassionate and well-rounded members of society, in her speech at the Global Educational Supplies and Solutions conference on Wednesday.
This holistic approach is buttressed by a regional revolution in education. Egypt has announced plans for a multidisciplinary curriculum in schools. Meanwhile, starting this year in Bahrain, pupils will no longer have to deal with the hassle of homework, as focus shifts from standardised tests to happiness and personal growth. As ever, innovative initiatives are being implemented right here in the UAE. For example, the Indian High School in Dubai is due to implement a flexible-learning programme that will let 16 to 18-year-old pupils pursue hobbies, from music to sport, for a day and a half every week.
These new approaches to education offer a reminder that learning is not just about passing exams. Its main goal, as Ms Al Muhairi stated, is to prepare future generations to think critically and become capable, compassionate adults, in possession of the necessary skills to find a profession that suits them. To achieve this objective, we cannot ignore the importance of lifelong learning and the massive impact technology has had on the job market. Ms Al Muhairi highlighted those challenges during her address and urged the inclusion of rising technologies, such as artificial intelligence and blockchain, in the UAE's classrooms.
The Minister's comments echo the plea of a younger generation eager to thrive in a new schooling environment. Adam El Rafey – an eight-year old from Dubai who started studying robotics at the precocious age of four – also advocates for new ways of learning. "We are not allowed to be as creative as we can be," he said in an interview with The National. "My mum was learning in the same way I was taught. We need to change that." These changes give us the opportunity to discuss how innovation in education can equip children with the skills to thrive in a more connected world – one in which the values of tolerance and inclusivity, instilled in pupils across the UAE, will also, undoubtedly, be vital.