Teaching methods must be adapted for UAE's new generation of schools

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, has announced that Dh1.5 billion will be invested in schools focused on robotics and artificial intellligence

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, has announced new schools will be built with a hi-tech focus on robotics and artificial intelligence.  
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Teaching methods and curricula need to be updated to meet the demands of a new generation of schools being launched in the UAE, education experts have said.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, announced plans for a Dh1.5 billion investment in new schools, featuring laboratories for robotics, artificial intelligence, health and the environment, on Monday.

Sheikh Mohammed also issued directives for technical academies at colleges to support learners who want to change their careers.

The academies will be open to students and those who want to upgrade their professional skills in line with the job market. Sheikh Mohammed also ­ordered programmes to be set up in higher education institutions to enable exceptional students to complete graduate degrees in three years.

Norm Dean, chief education officer at Taaleem, an education provider in Dubai, said the plans were in line with the country's forward-thinking approach but said education authorities would have to adapt their strategies.

"I think in the Ministry of Education curriculum there will have to be some work done in terms of revising the curriculum to more readily integrate and incorporate these approaches," Mr Dean said.

"Something that needs to be looked at is how we can support, grow and encourage teachers in there own understanding to integrate these into the curriculum.

"A closer relation between public and private schools will be tremendously advantageous to everybody. There is a lot we can learn from each other."

The ambitious project includes a Dh100m fund to nurture business-oriented minds and develop career paths for 65,000 students in the hospitality, retail, oil and gas and logistics sectors, a move welcomed by Mr Dean.

"In this nation and others, there has been a view that government sector jobs provide a lot of security. The reality is that economically this is not a sustainable model. They are providing opportunities to Emiratis to move into areas where they can develop the private enterprise."

According to new directives technical academies at colleges will also work to support learners who want to change career paths. Exceptional students may be able to fast-track their way to degrees.

Sheikh Mohammed said the investment plan was being rolled out to ensure the country is ready for the challenges of the future.

“Our aim is to introduce a range of new ideas in the next 50 years and foster the development of the new generation, which will accelerate our sustainable economic growth,” Sheikh Mohammed said.

“The new generation needs different approaches and tools for the future. When people have doubts due to economic volatility, we accelerate ­development."

Ron Hodkinson, principal of Ontario International Canadian School, said it is important that schools continue to evolve.

"If it meets the requirements, I believe it's for the right students. I think it's a very innovative and forward-thinking initiative. It's being responsive to society as well as the needs of the pupil," he said.

"Technology will become redundant very quickly so when the road map is laid out, so we have to constantly evolve with it.

"Schools have to evolve but technology doesn’t replace good teaching.

"Probably a challenge in other schools is where do we fit this within the curriculum."

Ms Sheela Menon, principal of Ambassador School in Dubai, said that while all schools might not have access to an artificial intelligence or robotics lab, most schools are making an effort in this direction.

"That is the vision of education this part of the world. We are already working to move away from rote learning," she said.

She backed the move to allow exceptional students to graduate ahead of schedule if they have the ability to do so.

She said that whether it is healthcare or hospitality, in every sector there will be a shift from humans to robotics.