Dubai-UAE: 13 March, 2017: In the first UAE Public Policy Forum on Education, currently underway at the Dubai World Trade Centre, prominent panelists highlighted the governments' responsibility to mandate civic studies across national educational institutions to promote the understanding of how the political system is structured.
Tracie Scott, Joseph Nalloor and Christopher Hopchin, authors of ‘Don't believe everything you read: the real requirement of 21st century education,' opened the session by stressing the need to armor students with basic knowledge and disciplines at a time where there are few information gatekeepers and an abundance of unprocessed information. The authors discussed how 21st century skills can be delivered effectively in a ‘post-truth' world where internet users are encouraged to believe rhetoric, propaganda and stereotypes rather than facts.
Tracie Scott, Lecturer, Murdoch University, said: “This session has come at a very critical time, given the progress being made on conversations around education in the UAE. As ICT, robotics and an interconnected, global economy are changing the skill-sets and future job market, it is our responsibility to prepare today's students for this. Practice and solutions-oriented learning will be the need of the hour to tackle issues effectively. Presently, although there is agreement that things must shift, there is little uniformity on structured implementation of such skills globally.”
Chris Hopchin added: “There is an urgent need to move away from traditional educational practices where teachers are in charge of providing information and content. They must instead, be guides and mentors to channel knowledge on 21st century themes, learning and innovation skills, technology and media skills and transferrable career skills. We must encourage self-directed and autonomous learning to make students well-suited for jobs that will emerge in the coming decades.”
In line with the theme ‘Future Directions of Education Policy', speaker Joseph Nalloor, Program Coordinator and Lecturer– School of Media, Murdoch University, said: “Youth constitute a majority of the Arab World's population and 77% of the total social media users are between the ages of 16-34 years. Given the amount of time spent on the internet or social media channels, youth must be wary of becoming disconnected from reality, from believing negative stereotypes or internalizing false news. Technology cannot replace good teaching, it can nevertheless enhance learning if applied in a measured and controlled way.”
Lauding the country's commitment to adapting educational practices with ICT and socio-economic changes, Tenia Kyriazi, Senior Lecturer, Middlesex University Dubai, said: “The UAE has evolved enormously in regard to education development since the 1950s. The country has been commended by the UN for high standards of basic social services, for free public education and for supporting the functioning of private schools. The UAE was also praised for offering disabled children access to education to make it more inclusive and integrated. “
Speaking on the findings of her research ‘Education in the UAE and the relevance of International Human Rights Law' co-authored with David Keane, Associate Professor, Middlesex University UK, Kyriazi, continued: “It is essential that we update our national curriculum to stimulate independent learning and human rights education. These teachings must be successful in mitigating negative stereotypes or perceptions of gender roles and urge widespread participation of the youth - including women – to pursue various fields of study. We must integrate elements of independent thinking in schools, universities and other learning institutions.”
Speaking on the change that millennials will create in the ‘world of work', Dr Linzi Kemp, Associate Professor, American University of Sharjah (AUS), said: “Students - both women and men, nationals and expatriates – are deeply influenced by their professors and internship mentors when choosing a career path and applying their capabilities in a particular subject area. Entering an era where the workplace environment, culture and priorities will be vastly different from what is experienced today, we need partnerships between professors, career services and employers in order to better understand millennials and create a practice-oriented curriculum which will better serve their professional goals. These collaborations will also be important in encouraging gender diversity in the workplace and raising the profile of women leaders in the region.”
Dr Kemp went on to share some key findings from her study on ‘The influences of Professors and curriculum on career choices: multicultural millennial in the UAE,' which she has co-authored with Linda McLoughlin, Placement Director, American University of Sharjah (AUS).
All session participants applauded the UAE's efforts to create a knowledge-based economy in the context of an increasingly digitizing and global world. The UAE Public Policy Forum has partnered with several organizations, including UAE Ministry of Education, GEMS Education, Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award for Distinguished Academic Performance and United Nations Development Programme, to develop the framework of public education policies.