The UAE will prioritise teachers over technology to help unlock the potential of learners for decades to come, the country's education minister said.
Ahmad Al Falasi, who was appointed Minister of Education in May, said it was crucial to invest in human talent to support the growth of the sector.
He said while it was vital to embrace advancing technologies to aid learning, teachers remained “the cornerstone” of education.
Mr Al Falasi delivered the message while addressing teachers and experts in the sector at an event at Dubai World Trade Centre, organised by Global Educational Supplies & Solutions Dubai, on Tuesday.
“The teacher is the cornerstone in any education process,” said Mr Al Falasi.
“We wouldn’t develop without good assessment and empowerment of teachers to master the use of educational instruments.
“We need to capitalise on technology, however we don’t want technology to be more important than people.
“Again I reiterate the teacher, the teacher, the teacher is the basis of a good education.”
President Sheikh Mohamed last month praised the role of teaching staff in the Emirates.
Marking World Teachers’ Day on Twitter, Sheikh Mohamed said: “Dedicated teachers are the bedrock of our education system and will be at the forefront of its development.
“On World Teachers’ Day, we recognise the vital role that teachers play across the UAE as they guide and shape the next generation that will drive our future progress.”
Sector bounces back from pandemic
He said the country’s strong digital infrastructure helped the country's schools successfully shift to remote learning during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the teaching community was the main support for pupils.
“Many countries were damaged by what is known as the ‘Covid gap,’” the minister said.
“For countries that shut down for a long period of time, the Covid gap was really deep.
“In the Emirates, thanks to the investment in the digital infrastructure we were able to shift immediately from education in person to remote learning that was in the best interest of students.”
The United Nations has said the pandemic interrupted the learning of 90 per cent of the world’s children, making it the largest disruption of education systems in history.
An estimated 147 million children have missed more than half of their in-class instruction over the past two years with the Covid-19 pandemic triggering a global education crisis.
Disruptions in education sectors across the world have also had devastating consequences on children's well-being.
Mr Al Falasi said responding to the challenges was key, with delivery of quality education one of the central focuses of the government.
“Education has always been a priority in the UAE because development cannot happen without a good education,” he said.
“Most countries in the world measure their progress based on the development of education.
“We in the Emirates focus on the development of the system of education and in the coming 50 years we will focus on the quality of education.”
The government has in the past focused on aligning education and training systems with the requirements of the jobs market, announcing nationwide programmes to close the skills gap.
Projects assess whether young Emiratis are studying relevant degrees to secure employment and sharpen their abilities and skills.
Omar Sultan Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, said strong digital education in the UAE would help tackle future challenges in the sector.
He said more than 700 teachers were trained in the digital sphere.
“We have designed new methods of teaching in digital classes in collaboration with the Ministry of Education,” he said in an address.
“We will face challenges through digital schools and we welcome co-operation with education partners from all over the world.”
Education is critical to UAE's ambitions
The UAE in May announced a shake-up at the Ministry of Education with new ministers chosen and a brief to re-evaluate how young people are taught.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said the goal was to ensure graduates were well prepared for the workplaces of the future.
Mr Al Falasi became Minister of Education, having previously served as Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and SMEs.
Sarah Al Amiri, an engineer who has led the UAE's space agency during a time of significant progress, was named Minister of State for Public Education and Future Technology, and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Emirates Schools Establishment.