UAE Public Policy Forum discusses strategic priorities for education reform in the UAE

DUBAI, 13th March, 2017 (WAM) — The UAE Vision 2021 National Agenda sets out the UAE’s ambitious education reform agenda, and in recent years, there has been widespread expansion in the coverage of schools and educational opportunities, according to participants in the UAE Public Policy Forum.

However, as the UAE advances its journey to build a world-class education system, it is essential to examine the nature of these reforms to assess their long-term objectives and impact, they noted at a session titled “Public Private Partnerships in Education” on the second day of the UAE Public Policy Forum.

The experts sought to evaluate the state of educational reform in the UAE and highlight strategic priorities for the future direction of education policy. The session saw four leading academics from the Mohammed bin Rashid School of Government (MBRSG) discussing a variety of topics including the frameworks used to determine school fees and the role of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA).

Dr. Mona Mostafa El-Sholkamy offered the opening presentation on ‘Paying for education in Dubai: is it really worth it?’. Evaluating the current policy framework used to set school fees in Dubai, she highlighted the findings of her study that was jointly conducted with Dr Yasser Al-Saleh. Among the key outcomes of the study include an observation that the existing school fee framework, which justifies private school fee increases based on performance inspections, is not a sustainable model.

She said, “We are assuming that schools need a monetary incentive to do a good job. We should not commercialise the education sector. Those entering the education field do so because of their passion for the service and a desire to make a difference to children’s lives.” She also predicted that the current model could cause hyperinflation in the education system and called for linking increases in school fees to more unbiased performance indicators.

Dr. Guy Burton, whose presentation focused on the current state of education in the UAE, described the two main ideological schools of thought behind education: the progressive model and the human capital development model.

Outlining the difference between these two models, he said, “There’s a tension between the idea of education for socialisation, making sure people fit into society, versus education as a liberating project that seeks to challenge the status quo and revise the idea of how we fit into the world.”

According to Dr. Burton, the human capital development model of education, which focuses on preparing students for the professional world, is predominant in the UAE. His study, which was conducted along with Dr Racquel Warner emphasises that the UAE should balance its aspiration for a more progressive education system with the market driven need for human capital development. The study also calls for greater dialogue between stakeholders in the education sector and industry to ensure a sustainable model of education.

Dr. Sophia Belghiti-Mahut presented the findings of her study that was conducted with Dr Anne Van Ewjik on the role of gender in entrepreneurship education. Dr Belghiti-Mahut described entrepreneurship education as the ability to equip learners with the skills and mindset required to turn creative ideas into entrepreneurial action. She said: “The key is to produce a change in mindset that facilitates entrepreneurial intentions and personal development in terms of leadership, responsibility and creativity.”

The study suggests that while both male and female students benefit from entrepreneurship education for their personal development, female students are more likely to develop entrepreneurial ambitions through entrepreneurship education. The study thus advocates greater efforts to promote entrepreneurship education through student advisors and course development.

Dr. Immanuel Azaad Moonesar’s concluding presentation examined the role of Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) and its impact on the educational landscape in Dubai. He said that private schools in Dubai have been showing steady improvements across most performance standard indicators. He added that KHDA has been instrumental in ensuring quality standards along with significant improvements in governance and leadership.

The UAE Public Policy Forum is being held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai. The event features panel discussions among leading local and international education experts and specialists, as well as top decision makers in the field. Themed ‘Future Directions of Education Policy’, the sessions seek to explore challenges and opportunities for education policies in the UAE.

The forum has partnered with several organisations, including the UAE Ministry of Education, GEMS Education, Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award for Distinguished Academic Performance and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), to develop the framework of education public policies.

Source: Emirates News Agency