Intrerview: Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili
How are the government and ADEC going about improving teaching techniques and quality assurance within the education sector of Abu Dhabi?
MUGHEE KHAMIS AL KHAILI: ADEC’s mandate is to provide students with critical thinking, problem solving, research and communication skills. Holistic reform is needed and all education areas are under review. The New School Model will transform education from rote to active learning methodology and since Abu Dhabi’s future leaders will need a strong grasp of the English language, science and industry, the new model is bilingual. In the past year, 52 public schools have been closed and 29 new state-of-the-art schools have been built. Some 2000 licensed teachers from English-speaking countries have come to Abu Dhabi to enhance the English-language portion of the new curriculum and move the education system forward to a more active learning style.
In the last two years, there has been considerable investment by ADEC in the professional development of teachers to assist in changing their methodology in classrooms, including the deployment of 1600 trainers from public-private partnership providers. We have introduced a reform of assessment methods to help improve individual students’ progress. System-wide in-school inspection is in place to help assure the progress of schools against ADEC’s standards. In addition to a new education programme, all schools are being connected with high-speed wireless internet, and all government schools have been inter-connected.
What are the differences in changes taking place in private versus public schools in Abu Dhabi?
AL KHAILI: Private schools are crucial, and the sector is aiming to create a balance, because current demand for private institutions is higher than the supply.
Our focus is on improving the quality of private education through regular inspection. This is a new initiative undertaken to ensure that private schools provide the students with the minimum standards that ADEC will accept. These cover school buildings, curriculum, students’ outcomes and welfare, and value for money for parents. Public school quality improvement is also important to the government. The UAE was 21% behind the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average in skillsets needed for students’ future success, but was ranked highest in the Arab world. There is still a lot of work to be done.
What have been some of the outcomes and success indicators of the reforms currently being implemented in the education sector?
AL KHAILI: The current priorities are to produce quality international students, make education accessible to every child regardless of whether they are UAE citizens or expatriates, improve education quality to meet minimum global standards and advance Abu Dhabi’s human resources base. To measure itself internationally, Abu Dhabi is adopting international standards and regulations. In 2009, we piloted tests through the Programme for International Student Assessment and used them as an example to create our own testing procedures. Our tests measure maths, sciences, English and Arabic, and studies have shown a year-on-year improvement. Furthermore, we believe failing schools cannot be tolerated, and must be fixed or closed down. To help improve schools, ADEC is working to expand core subjects that will produce an excellent calibre of students.
Are there changes to the curricula to ensure higher enrolment for technical degree programmes?
AL KHAILI: The government’s Human Capital Planning Committee will specify which courses are mandatory in Abu Dhabi’s national and international universities. There must be a focus on technical industries such as oil and gas, renewable energies, developing microchips, health and education. Our priority is to give students the skills they need to become critical thinkers, problem solvers, researchers and global communicators that can work in a team environment, and to provide various pathways to achieve their career aspirations.
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