- Organized by Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government under the Patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
- Dino Varkey: With 69 million global teacher shortage, governments need to adopt non-traditional solutions
- Experts: Governments must contextualize global benchmarks to effectively address regional challenges
- Public-private collaboration imperative to accelerate education reform
- Prof M Ramesh: Singapore to teach children what machines will not be able to do in 50 years
Dubai-UAE: 13 March, 2017: Globalization has placed new demands on the education system, mandating greater flexibility and new skill sets from learners. This was a key outcome of the opening session of the UAE Public Policy Forum that got off to a great start today at the Dubai World Trade Centre's Sheikh Maktoum Hall.
Under the theme 'Effectiveness of Education Reform', the session examined how governments can balance global and regional priorities to ensure that education reforms are both impactful and sustainable. Participants concluded that while there is a strong international move toward global education reform, each country has its unique set of challenges that require customized solutions.
Her Excellency Jameela bint Salem Al Muhairi, Minister of State for Public Education, noted that governments need to align their national agendas with global benchmarks, such as the UN sustainable development goals (SGDs). She said: “This is at the center of what we are doing at the Ministry of Education.”
Citing the success of the UAE's education reforms, she added that girls account for more than 50 percent of enrollment across schools in the country.
Discussing the role of global benchmarks such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a comparative global education survey that evaluates education systems worldwide, she said: “PISA is a key indicator to measure progress. Ranking is not the only important thing, but to measure progress every year, it is a good indicator.”
Echoing her view, Dr David Johnson, Education Policy Specialist at Oxford University, added that international benchmarks should be interpreted by countries rather than imposed on them. He said: “Data should be used interpretively to find out how fast a country is on the path to reform. Most countries do not simply rely on international benchmarking. Most systems have their own national standards.”
Speaking on PISA, he added: “PISA is misunderstood in the extent to which it can drive up national performance. It is a comparative assessment – it does not assess a curriculum, but rather the application of skills to a set of questions. What does drive up performance is national benchmarking and the use of information.”
According to Prof M Ramesh, UNESCO Chair on Social Policy Design in Asia, the key issue with PISA is the media's disproportionate focus on rankings. Speaking on the huge amount of socioeconomic and performance data that PISA generates, he said: “Most countries would do well to hire people and equip their own education ministries to analyze the data.”
Using the example of Singapore to demonstrate where standardized benchmarks fall short, he added: “Singapore finds international benchmarks too limiting. The country wants to exceed those standards. Institutions in the country aim to teach things to children that machines will not be able to do in the next 50 years.”
Dr Senthil Nathan, Director of Edu Alliance, agreed that global best practices and benchmarks are important insofar as they are contextualized to address unique regional challenges. Emphasizing the regional challenge in the UAE, he said: “We cannot afford to leave a single Emirati behind – the opportunities are tremendous. We need to give our students a variety of options.”
Stressing the relevance of international benchmarking for the UAE considering the country's large expat population, he added: “We work in a globalized workplace. Students have to compete against world-class standards, which means we have to have benchmarks.”
For Dino Varkey, Managing Director of GEMS Education, international benchmarking is an important performance indicator. He said: “We need to know how we are doing against other systems. We need to have a sense of how we have performed and ensure we remain ahead.”
Highlighting the importance of public-private partnerships in accelerating the pace of education reform, he added: “The scale of the challenge is so significant that governments on their own cannot meet this demand or innovate for the entire system. At present, global teacher shortage stands at 69 million. We are going to have to explore non-traditional ways of getting that great teacher.”
Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council, the UAE Public Policy Forum runs from March 12 to 13. Themed ‘Future Directions of Education Policy', the event discusses challenges and opportunities for education policies in the UAE. The Forum features a variety of panel discussions among leading local and international education experts as well as top decision makers in the field of public policy.
The Forum has partnered with several organizations, including the 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.