Hard work and good timekeeping: how the UAE's moral education drive aims to improve society

Education chief provides summit with insight into new curriculum, and says National Service has transformed young people

Dr Al Nuaimi said that the National Service programme has instilled discipline and pride in young Emiratis. WAM
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Young people should be taught the true meaning of morals and ethics - from professionalism in the workplace to turning up on time – which some adults today have failed to comprehend, a top education official said.

“Moral ethics are not a luxury or an optional trait, it is a necessity... which if achieved, will save the state massive efforts,” said Dr Ali Al Nuaimi, chairman of the Department of Education and Knowledge, member of the Executive Council and chairman of the Muslim Council of Elders.

Moral education classes were introduced in public and private schools in September. The lesson comprises a single hour per week, taught without textbooks and is intended to set young people on the right path in life.

"Some have a limited understanding of moral ethics as personal behaviour," Dr Al Nuaimi said of adults today.

“But it much more than that, it is a building tool, it means that as an individual you should have a significant productive role in society," he said.

“It means that you are committed at work, you go on time and do what the job requires - and it means that you are a positive, proactive person.”

By adding the subject to school curriculums, “we hope that the upcoming generation will be brought up with moral ethics characteristics.”

“We, the older generation, may have lost of it, or have not been able to commit to it,” he said.


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Dr Al Nuaimi was speaking on the first day of the Aqdar World Summit, which aims to raise the value of education and moral education. It is being held under the patronage of Sheikh Saif bin Zayed , Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, and in co-operation with Unesco and a range of UAE government authorities.

One problem that has contributed to the deterioration of moral ethics, he said, is the lack of guidance from adults.

On Monday, experts at a child internet symposium in Abu Dhabi warned that parents, who often have their eyes glued to their smart devices, were ignoring their children.

And in turn, their children were beginning to develop bad habit and imitate their parents' addiction to screens.

“In the past when we were children, everyone used to guide and raise,” said Dr Al Nuaimi.

"If someone was seen making a mistake in the street, an older person would pull his ear to teach him right from wrong.

“If someone shoplifted, the shop owner would confront him… so everyone used to raise. If the father or grandparents were busy, the entire society contributed to the raising of a child.”

Too many parents lack the patience or time to instil such principles in young people, Dr Al Nuaimi said, so all of society must contribute.

“If my son makes a mistake, a random person can come and tell him," he said.

Once the society adopts this culture, this will save the government a lot of effort.

“It is not possible for an ethical person to commit treason, or to become a criminal," he said.

The lack of a good upbringing has seen family members squabble over money and other issues.

“Now you see brothers turning into sharks when they split their inheritance," he said.

He said all departments and authorities should contribute to creating a moral society, not only the education ministry.

Dr Al Nuami used the mandatory National Service programme, introduced for 18-30 year olds in 2014, as an example of a drive that has instilled discipline.

“Our sons who finished National Service came out with completely different ethics, commitment, determination and purpose.”

“So we hope that everyone adopts these traits.”

Creating a well disciplined society will ensure a strong future for the emirates, Dr Al Nuami said.

"More tourists will start visiting, businesses will boom and bridges will be built,” he said.