UAE minister says young people must be curious to thrive

Shamma Al Mazrui says education systems must do more to encourage curiosity

Shamma Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth, speaks at the RewirEd summit at Expo 2020 Dubai. Ruel Pableo for The National
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Minister of State for Youth Shamma Al Mazrui has encouraged young people to have a spirit of curiosity and courage, and to fight the fear of failure, so they can thrive in a constantly changing world.

Ms Al Mazrui said that education systems should do more to encourage curiosity.

The minister was speaking at the RewirEd global education summit being held at the Expo 2020 Dubai site from Sunday to Tuesday.

The education we have now assumes that we all as young people need to learn the same things at the same time, in the same place, in the same way. And curiosity is off the subject. That's a very big missed opportunity
Shamma Al Mazrui

“We need curious youth and youth need to be equipped to approach change and crisis," Ms Al Mazrui said.

“The fundamental aim of education must be for youth to be empowered with the tools to easily execute ideas, become expert negotiators and attract the attention of those around them and scale up promising ideas, innovations and solutions.

“We need curious policymakers and decision makers. We need curious leaders who seek out and listen to young people, who see what the true needs of the education system are, who look beneath the surface ... who do the work themselves to understand why leaders must become experts in curiosity.

“As leaders and decision makers in every field, our primary goal for education must be to instil in youth curiosity and courage ... as policymakers and decision makers as well to lead with courage and curiosity as a baseline in designing education, because we cannot be static."

Ms Al Mazrui said children, especially toddlers, had many questions when they begin talking, but by the time they finished primary school, these questions started fading away.

"Where did the questions go? I don't think they figured out life yet," she said.

"But the education system is not fully designed to keep up or nourish the innate driven, powerful vehicle through which these young kids learn, which is curiosity."

“The education we have now assumes that we all as young people need to learn the same things at the same time, in the same place in the same way. And curiosity is off the subject. It's not even welcomed to begin with, not to say discouraged. That's a very big missed opportunity."

Ms Mazrui said deliberate change with a view to improve things and the courage to rewire ourselves were essential in the current climate.

She also encouraged people to take risks and not be afraid of failure.

“Youth commonly ask, 'What if I fail? What if I fail if I studied this? What if I'm making a huge mistake?'," she said.

She offered advice and told young people that there was always a way home. They could go back to being students if something went wrong, or go find a job.

"Education needs to rewire you to take the risks necessary to live a successful, vibrant life of purpose," she said.

Her thoughts echoed the ideas put forward by Stefania Giannini, assistant director general for education at Unesco.

She also spoke of the need of innovation and people's fear of change.

"People don't like to change," Ms Giannini said. "Change scares, because it's about something we don't know. But what we need now in education, as a public sector, as many other sectors, is about change.

"We see interesting kinds of new solutions in action and governments providing new response to the challenges we see as international organisations moving hand in hand."

She spoke of a new way of global collaboration and a level of co-operation focused on protecting education as a basic human right and working together on priorities such as reopening schools safely and putting teachers at the top of the agenda.

The world's most influential thinkers on education have been brought together at the The RewirEd global education summit to come up with a new style of teaching.

Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Co-operation, Hussain Al Hammadi, Minister of Education, Jaime Saavedra, the global director of the Education Global Practice at the World Bank, Henrietta Fore, executive director of Unicef, and Robert Moritz, global chairman of PwC, were some of the speakers at the summit on Sunday.

Updated: December 12, 2021, 1:18 PM