Teachers in UAE ‘must prepare pupils for jobs that don’t yet exist’

Teachers and pupils are grappling with a hugely disruptive era but it is one that can bring even greater benefits, Jameela Al Muhairi tells Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week

Teachers face major challenges to prepare pupils for jobs that do not yet exist yet, a UAE minister has said.

Jameela Al Muhairi, Minister of State for Public Education, said youngsters were living in a hugely disruptive era of the “fourth industrial revolution” with smartphones, video games, tablets and artificial intelligence radically reshaping the world.

Speaking on Tuesday at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, Ms Al Muhairi said that in the classrooms of today, the chalkboard had been replaced by digital smart boards and that teachers needed to help pupils to gain confidence, think independently and take risks to benefit from the opportunities this era brings.

“Looking at Google Trends for the year 2021, the youth of today belong to a time where 5.6 billion Google searches are carried out every day,” she said.

“We need to carefully examine our current reality, learning from global success and deeply understand what works, when, in education. Only then we can identify what is likely to be needed for the school of tomorrow.”

Jameela Al Muhairi, Minister of State for Public Education, said the chalkboard has been replaced by digital smart boards. Photo: Emirates School Establishment

Ms Al Muhairi, who was speaking in a pre-recorded video address, oversees the Emirates Schools Establishment. The entity was created in 2019 to raise standards at public schools throughout the country.

She also touched on educating youngsters about sustainability, new teaching methods and why the social setting of the school is important. First, she said, schools had been improving teaching methods and placing more focus on science.

“In schools across the UAE, there have been efforts to improve teaching strategies, support Stem [science, technology, engineering and maths] subjects and engage pupils more in problem-solving and project-based work,” she said.

“Real learning will only happen when students are confident to criticise, examine and express their thoughts ... and when they address real issues that matter to them.”

Ms Al Muhairi also spoke about the environment and said it was important for schools to put it at the heart of their decision-making.

“Schools need to be sustainable spaces ... and contribute to an environmentally-friendly ecosystem,” she said.

“We believe that serious investments need to be directed towards the development of school physical environments.

“Pupils, today and in the future, will require personal interaction and more personalised learning that is relevant to their needs and to their real life,” she said.

Schools around the world have embraced online learning since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic but Ms Al Muhairi said schools would continue to be the natural, social and culture environments in which holistic learning would take place.

“Learning within a social community helps children develop empathy towards others, make friends, discover the value of tolerance and learn to care for their environments and community,” she said.

“School is where the values of citizenship and belonging develop.”

The minister said teachers required very advanced technological skills and a deep understanding of brain research and cognitive science, and would have to adapt their teaching strategies.

She called for a collective approach to a changed education system involving tertiary institutions, businesses, governments, and non-government organisations.

“They will also need to help pupils to make informed decision about their dreams, job and career choices,” said Ms Al Muhairi.

Updated: January 18, 2022, 4:50 PM