DUBAI // Thousands of youngsters at private schools in the emirate are to take part in a five-year census programme to assess their wellbeing and happiness.
The data from 70,000 pupils later this year will be used to develop policies to improve wellbeing.
The project is spearheaded by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority in partnership with the government of South Australia.
“Many schools in Dubai already view teaching and learning through the lens of student wellbeing, and we’ve seen great improvement in both academic results and sense of happiness and purpose,” said Abdulla Al Karam, director general of KHDA.
“This project marks the next step in Dubai’s journey towards a sector-wide approach to positive education, and will give schools the data they need to fully integrate wellbeing and positivity into teaching and learning.”
The census, which will be conducted annually over the next five years, will cover Grades 5, 6, 7 and 8.
“Our friends from DECD [South Australia’s department for education and child development] have extensive experience in carrying out similar projects in South Australia and internationally, and we look forward to working together on this initiative to bring more happiness and wellbeing to our communities,” said Mr Karam.
The DECD will offer school leaders and teachers workshops to understand how the census will work and how they can use the data to help develop their policies.
David Engelhardt, director of the DECD, said the census would be for children in the last two years of primary school and the first two years of secondary school.
“The middle years in adolescence are the main focus, when children are going through the move into high school,” he said.
Work will start next month when a team from South Australia will meet Emirati teachers, children and community members to devise a culture specific framework for the census.
Frameworks for expatriate school pupils will also be developed.
This data will be analysed in May and June. The online census platform will be tested in October and begin operation in November.
The online survey will will take children about 35 minutes.
Pupils will answer questions about their engagement with their school, teachers and peers, bullying and on their social lives.
The findings of the study will be released in 2018.
Ashok Kumar, chief executive of the Indian High School, welcomed the plans.
“When children are happy and there is wellbeing then performance is improved and that has a knock-on effect in academic success,” he said.
About 4,000 pupils are expected to take part in the survey at the Indian High School each year, he said.
Christopher McDermott, the founding principal of Oaktree Primary School, said he was fully behind the project.
“When you ask a parent what they want from their child, the first thing they will always say is that they want them to be happy,” he said.
“This naturally has positive impacts on every aspect of school life and happy children often lead to better-performing children.”
The KHDA has been measuring wellbeing in Dubai since 2014 through the School of Hearts and Minds survey.