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Dubai to Achieve International Standards in Elementary Education

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Dr. Haifa AlMaashi

Director, Geo-strategic Affairs Division

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The leadership in Dubai focused its attention to modernizing education, especially in its Elementary stages, and are continuously innovative and creative in this concern.
However, the implementation of creative approaches in the field of education faces hurdles that impact the sustainability of introduced changes. Such a challenge pertains to human barriers, particularly the intellectual inertia among some administrators or teachers, and their lack of qualifications that would enable them to apply all that is new. One of the biggest challenges that could slow down the progress of developing education is the absence of an assessment program to evaluate the educational system, and  the success or failure of new systems that are implemented.
Looking at the education from a local perspective is different than from a global perspective. If we look at Dubai as an example in applying mechanisms and programs of modern education, we find that the emirate strives towards international standards, true to Dubais nature of aspiring to be a global city. But have the standards actually been applied?
Education is fundamental to the building of a country, as it is essential for human development to promote growth, and contributes to the overall social, economic, political and cultural development of the community.
However, implementing international standards as a primary objective does not mean overlooking the local  aspect; the education system needs to reflect the local setting in which the education is taking place. To modernize an education system, the conditions of the local community, including their capabilities and needs in the short, medium and long terms must be considered.
Some may see innovation in education that is aligned with the local setting is sustainable which leads to high rates of success. In comparison, educational programs that are simply implemented from international experience but not adapted to the local setting may contribute to granting Dubai the Order of the world, but will keep the structure and content of education incomplete, ineffective and doesnt thoughtfully meet the needs and future ambitions of the Emirate.

However, this does not mean ignoring the European or East Asian experience, but instead a combination of local and foreign experiences found a good base for developing education.

When reviewing techniques with which foreign curricula has been applied in many Elementary schools in Dubai as of yet, we find that the objective of most is mainly to integrate Dubai within the global context of international standards in the approach to education

This is an advantage, but it may be considered a costly defect to the state if it fails to raise the level of education, or if the modernization was not sustainable enough, and merely temporary educational plans, or applied exclusively in specific schools. This  means that modernization will not be reflected in the education levels of students in the emirate as a whole. This in turn leads to the creation of large gaps between groups of students in similar stages of education, thus reflecting on their performance at university or even on their professional performance when they join the work force.
Foreign experiences, whether Western or Eastern in the education are rich and valuable, especially in the field of e-learning, which keeps pace with the latest developments in communications technology.
Dubai does not want to fall short on international education standards in particular after competing successfully in different fields.  It is important to achieve competitiveness in the field of education on par with international standards. Although it does not mean to imitate success stories unconsciously, by doing so you lose out on the advantages of such global experiences and waste financial and human resources without achieving significant changes. Also this may lead to the wrong application of these programs, which in turn results in delaying the progress of the education processes.
There have been a wide range of global summits on education, such as " Wise" for innovation in education, with several initiatives launched that combined theory and applied research. Some focused on evaluating the  theories of education in all schools, others focused on giving freedom to each school in developing its private theory of education to stimulate innovation in education. 
An example is the German approach to education, a mix between vocational education and alternative education, which gives students the options to decide what they wants to learn according to their abilities and talents. The German experience focused largely on the exceptional support of scientific research.
Dubai as one of the seven emirates that represents the country has not yet achieved the ideal  formula for combining local and global processes in education.
Perhaps the recent survey findings issued by  PISA (Program for International Students Assessment), a program by the OECD,  that tested the skills and knowledge of  15 year old student in 70 countries  in reading, science, math and problem-solving , showed Dubai students did not achieve the desired average level on each of these subject.


Many would agree that the equation begins with setting the concepts for the change in the educational process. This raises the following question:

What is exactly needed? Do we need to reform or modernize education?

The difference  between the two concepts is vast. The former requires a comprehensive change in education that includes administration, students, curricula and techniques of teaching. The second includes the introduction or adoption of some new ideas in the education according to the global perspective and in the frame of the concept in terms of globalization.
Visions on adopting the best approach to combine the two concepts of reformation and modernization  differ. Dubai should achieve both to attain the Quality" element in education.
One of the proposed methods is starting the process of comprehensive reform and embracing modernity and modernizing the educational work through the stages of reform to reach the perfect formula that combines both concepts. It is important to note that with any  selected approach  the  , an assessment process throughout the various stages is always be present.

The following highlights some of the important issues in this context:
-  An evaluation of foreign education systems through assessing the success and failures of their programs. The evaluation should consider    the elements of education process that include: Students, teachers, administrators, curricula and teaching methods.
- Focus on developing a localized education program that preserves the local values while maintaining a commitment to international standards.  The development of an educational plan must accommodate the education needs in the emirate based on financial and human resource capabilities, to be able to implement this plan according to the international standards effectively.
- Investment in education is a human and soci-economic investment, which connects human resources development to economic development for an emirate eligible to be among the top international centers as a global economic hub, after it has already achieved higher standards in this domain.

Education has different visions and objectives and does not follow a straight path to achieve its goal, the effective choice would be a local approach, inspired by international standards and motivated by creativity.


Dr. Haifa Al Maashi is a Senior Researcher at bhuth.


[1] There is another definition for (alternative education) under the list of non-traditional common educational choices in the educational process. For more information please visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternative_education

[2] Ref: report published in the website of Knowledge & Human Development Authority (Dubai) titled: Dubais pupils improving, but still trail international standards. You can also refer to the report at: https://khda.gov.ae/En/News/KHDANews.aspx?ID=29839

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