Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 24 November 2020

Emirati teenagers sample the university of life across the globe

Hundreds of young pupils have had valuable experiences while part of an Ambassador's programme allowing them to study abroad

Meera Al Blooshi, 17, and Abdullah Al Hefeiti, benefited both academically and personally from their trips overseas as part of the Ministry of Education's Ambassador programme. Victor Besa/The National
Meera Al Blooshi, 17, and Abdullah Al Hefeiti, benefited both academically and personally from their trips overseas as part of the Ministry of Education's Ambassador programme. Victor Besa/The National

Emirati teenagers are learning vital life lessons as part of an international education scheme helping to 'open their eyes' to new cultures.

The Ambassadors programme, operated by the Ministry of Education, has allowed hundreds of pupils to attend courses and workshops at a host of international universities every spring and summer since its launch in 2016.

For many young citizens, the project is a chance to strike out on their own and broaden their horizons as well as shape their career plans.

About 2,000 school pupils, university students and teachers have taken part in the past two years alone.

A stay in Switzerland proved a life-changing event for Sharifa Al Hashami, 17, a pupil at Murbah Secondary School in Fujairah.

Sharifa, who has type one diabetes, learned how to manage her condition herself while visiting Zurich ETH, a science, technology, engineering and mathematics university, for the Ambassadors programme in 2017.

“I was there for two weeks and my life and my personality changed after this. I was 14, I had diabetes, and I had to manage on my own without my family," she said.

"If I did not go, I would not know how to take care of my diabetes responsibly. It was difficult for me but I had to do it and I did.

"I enjoyed experiencing a different culture. The people there wanted to know about UAE's culture and said they love Dubai."

The pupil studied energy in Zurich and is encouraging pupils to participate in the programme, which is free for public school pupils.

“Before I went on this trip, I did not want to study anything related to science. When I tried it, I enjoyed the hands-on-learning experience and this made me more confident."

This September, the pupil is hoping to pursue energy studies at Zayed University.

Sophie Oakes, educational adviser at Gabbitas, an education consultancy in Dubai, said the travels will expose pupils to different ways of learning.

"For these young pupils, this is the first time they get the opportunity to see students across the world study and this will be an opportunity to be exposed to different ways of learning. They can bring those ideas back with them," said Ms Oakes.

"This is extremely valuable for a teenager as this will open their eyes to a wide range of educational opportunities and they will be able to focus on the area they would like to specialise in.

"Their eyes are truly open to something completely new, from the way a country looks to what they eat and how they live."

Meera Al Blooshi, 17, an Emirati pupil at Princess Haya School in Dubai, travelled to South Korea in 2016, a move which has informed her decision to study economy in the UAE or South Korea in the future.

“I was there for two weeks and studied the history of South Korea and learned about why Korea is famous for innovation," said Meera.

"When you learn such beautiful things as a young person, it improves your analytical abilities and the way you see the world. You learn to solve problems through innovation and I am already using what I learned."

Abdullah Al Hefeiti, an 18-year-old Emirati pupil at Saif Bin Hamad Al Sharqi School in Fujairah, spent time at Colorado University in 2017 to study aerospace engineering.

"I was not confident enough when I travelled so this experience taught me skills I did not into know I had," he said.

He said he also picked up personal skills and leadership skills.

The Ambassadors programme focuses on key learning areas such as innovation, future, giving, diplomacy, education, art and sports in an effort to mould well-rounded and responsible citizens.

Teachers keen to learn new skills

UAE teachers are receiving training at universities and businesses abroad in an effort to drive up standards in the country's public schools.

As part of the Ministry of Education's Ambassador programme, teachers are sharpening their skills in subjects such as early childhood development, science and technology before passing on their new-found knowledge to colleagues back in the Emirates.

The ministry's scheme - which also provides learning opportunities overseas for pupils and students - has supported more than 300 teachers since 2017.

Hana Al Naqbi, an Emirati mathematics teacher at Um Omara Secondary School in Khor Fakkan, will be visiting software giants Microsoft in the US to receive training in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics this summer.

"I will learn how to create lessons and will bring the knowledge to my colleagues in the school so that I can develop the teachers' skills at the school," she said.

"Knowledge must be renewed and learning has no expiry date.

"Pupils know about everything through social media so we teachers have to keep updating our knowledge.

Manal bin Obood has worked as a fine arts teacher for 22 years in Dubai and will be training in early childhood education at the University of Toronto in Canada this summer.

"I will be studying early education and how it is necessary to build a good foundation for pupils and learn lifelong skills," said the teacher at The Alfiya School.

She said she wants to share her experiences with her colleagues in Dubai.

"This will help boost the public schools and will help us to improve," she said.

Updated: July 29, 2019 10:49 AM

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