Today’s education system is based on a pattern of traditional instructions where values, beliefs, knowledge and skills are transferred from one generation to the next. Teaching, or instructing, is accomplished via explanation, rote memorization, directed research, storytelling, or discussion.
Formal education is normallydivided into different stages based on current education levels, which roughly correspond with the student’s age: pre-school, primary and secondary school,followed by college or university,or a trade apprenticeship. Most of the world’s countries recognize an individual’s right to education. However, despite education being almost universally compulsory up to a certain age, school attendance reflects a different and unfortunate reality.
Research indicates a positive correlation between education achievement and economic prosperity. The empirical evidence shows that a nation’s level of economic progress and the general level of well-being are directly tied to the educational development of its citizens.
With that in mind, we take a look at some global best practices in education to see if there may be lessons to be learned from others in advancing education in the UAE.
In the attempt to support a greater degree of equity among students of various socio-economic backgrounds in Australia, the National Early Childhood Development Strategy (2009) was drafted with the goal of building a more effective and better-coordinated system for early childhood development. The initiativecovers children up tothe age of eight years old.
The programprioritizes and concentrates on sensitive areas that contribute to a positive and fruitful educational environment: support to vulnerable children, creating awareness amongst parents about the importance of early development, improvement of the early childhood environment, strengthening of childhood development and family support services, and enhancement of maternal, child, and family healthcare services.
The goal of the Australian government is to enhance the skills provided through the education sector for the rapidly changing economy. The Advancing Quality in Higher Education Plan (2012-14) introduces various performance measurements in support of the goal for improving the level of teaching, as well as learning in higher education. The program also provides additional funding for students from disadvantagedbackgrounds, providing finance for grants and contingent loans.
The state is also working to improve the level of apprenticeships by offering incentives to employers as well as students. The Australian Apprenticeship Centeris a centralized information and support center for employers, new entrants to the workforce, and students.
The government has also developed a national program to raise teaching standards, Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (2010). This program has designated four career stages in the field of education—Graduate, Proficient, Highly Accomplished, and Lead Teacher. The National Partnership in Improving Quality (2009-2013), provides funding to attract the best gradates into the field of teaching in the attempt to entice top-quality talent and create a superior teaching force.
A kindergarten reform was introduced in 2004 with the objective of increasing accessibility to quality kindergartensby allotting land for school development, setting a limit on the maximum tuition fee, and increasing funding forpublic and private kindergartens. The initiative led to the increase of participation of one-to five-year olds from 72% to 90% between 2004 and 2012. National strategies for raising competence of staff (2007-2010) and for recruitment of kindergarten teachers (2007-2011) were also implemented to increase the number of qualified teachers.
In 2006, the Knowledge Promotion Reform was introduced for primary and secondary education. The reform increased focus on specific skills such as reading, oral expression, writing, numeracy and use of digital tools, and the promotion of knowledge.
In the attempt to curtail dropout rates, the New Possibilities-Ny GIV (2010 through 2013) was introduced. The program is a national effort to increase the successful completion of upper secondary education and training. It was successful in increasing the completion rate from 69% to an estimated 75%. It offered students an alternative to dropping out of school by opting for a two-year training program instead of the four year secondary school model, allowing them to work, while at the same time, completing their basic education.
To help facilitate a better environment for learning, the Better Learning Environment Initiative (2009-2014) was introduced which includes various local school development projects and offers an evidence-based learning guide for participating students. To improve teaching standards,National Guidelines for Differentiated Primary and Lower Secondary Teacher Education Programs were introduced. The unified structure helped to raise the quality of teachers and improve accreditation and accountability amongst them.
GNIST (SPARK) teacher recruitment campaign (2009-2014) is a national partnership between the Ministry of Education and key stakeholders. The campaign effectively raised the status and prestige associated with the profession, and simultaneously raised the quality standards for those in the profession. Since the initiation of the campaign, the number of applicants to the teacher education program has risen by an unprecedented 60%. There has also been a 27% increase inapplications for higher education programs.
The German government has introduced a comprehensive secondary schooling system that offers a range of diverse qualifications and has simultaneously merged the two lower-level tiers into one.Most importantly, the system has been changed to allow students unrestricted access to secondary education courses regardless of the routepreviously chosen—academic or trade. Further, the system facilitates transitions from one path to the other when desired.
The National Integration Plan (2007) was designed to achieve better recognition of alternative qualifications, such as vocational education. Other policies such as the BAföG and the Bildungsprämie offer grants and loans to individuals for education and training. In order to support extra-curricular activities, the Education Alliance (2012) was formed.The program supports students from disadvantaged backgrounds.It initially received 30 million EUR in funding which is to be increased to up to 50 million EUR in subsequent years. The program gives underprivileged students a chance to participate in activities such as school excursions, sports, and musical and cultural activities to increasetheir level of motivation and create a sense of belonging. To smooth the path between school and work, the ambitious JOBSTARTER program was initiated in 2006, which funds innovative projects to help create additional training and apprenticeship programs.
The federal government and the Lander agreed on the Quality Offensive in Teacher Training (2013). The program improves training standards for teachers and improves the recognition of such courses and certificates. The Qeudlinberger Resolution (2005) includes voluntary guidelines for the acceptance and accreditation of undergraduate and graduate programs in terms of teacher qualifications. Otherwise the First State Examination is considered as the equivalent to a master’s degree for a career in education.
The government of South Korea introduced Service Teacher Training Institutes (1986), which were established at each provincial board of education to upgrade the quality of the teaching force. In the late 90s, the aging population of teachers became a concern.As technological advancements induced rapid growth and a high demand for technical employment,the number of young people entering the teaching profession declined.To combat this situation,the ministry of education took drastic measures and lowered the teacher retirement age from 65 to 62, increasing the desirability of teaching while at the same time creating many job opportunities for new teachers. This rejuvenated the teaching force and within two years, over 50,000 teachers were replaced as opposed to the average of 7,000 each year.
In 1995, major educational reforms took place under the name of 5.31 Education Reform Proposals(ERP). Through ERP’s, the previously authoritarian and centralized system was replaced by market forces in the education sector. Through the ERP, three main policies were implemented. First wasderegulation of the education sector along with the implementation of accountability measures such as performance-based funding. Then the curriculum was completely reformed, allowing for diversification within teaching as well as learning. Lastly, information and communication technology was incorporated within the lifelong education system, expanding the educational opportunities for all.
In 2001, the education minister’s political status was upgraded to the Deputy Prime Minister level, allowing the ministry to oversee and coordinate not only educational policies but also human resource developmental policies.
Within the ERP initiative, the vocational and technical education system was improved, which had started to lag behind since the adoption of capital intensive business practices. The most important role was the integration of the vocational and technical curricula within high schools. Students were now able to devote one extra year of education to acquiring field experience. Furthermore, ERP brought diversification to high schools by introducing two different types of schools: integrated and specialized.This provided an efficient and specialized workforce along with a greater number of career choices to students. The workforce of South Korea,given the country’s information economy,requires continual upgrading of skills and lifelong learning. The government has answered this call with vocational high schools anduniversities for continuing education.
The education system of South Korea is considered to be one of the best in the world, fueled by social and economic demand. The choices the government madeand the programs instituted, show that both access and equity can be achieved simultaneously if the government and the populace are ready to address potential trade-offs and make difficult decisionsfrom the planning stages through to implementation.
Practical evidence shows that the importance of establishing foundational cognitive and non-cognitive abilities well before the age of five is fundamental to the lifelong educational and learning experience of an individual (Heckman and Masterov, 2007). Taking this philosophy to heart, the government of Japan places a great deal of emphasis on their early education policies.It expanded the capacity of licensed pre-primary education centers from 2.15 million in 2010 to 2.41 million in 2014, effectively eliminating the problem of waiting lists. The government’s New Growth Strategy (2010) set out to integrate childcare and kindergarten to eliminate categorization in early life education into kindergarten, childcare, and nursery schools.
The government implemented the Global 30 Project(2008) to internationalize the Japanese educational sector, which is expected to include 300 thousand foreign students by 2020. The project encompasses 30 universities with a total budget of 3 billion yen. Another project was launched in partnership with South Korea, dubbed Campus Asia (2010). Its goal is to promote student exchange programs and attract high-achieving foreign students.
To improve the academic standard at the tertiary level, the government has suggested improving efficiencies through economies of scale. Since 2002, 29 national universities have merged into only 14. However, the average size of Japanese national universities still remains very small compared with some other countries. This suggests that it may be possible to consolidate the education sector even further to promote institutional excellence.
The Japanese education sector is renowned for promoting innovation through learning and education. The amount of spending on research and development in Japan is among the highest in the world. The Third Science and Technology Basic Plan 2006 further increased the role of tertiary education in innovation by strengthening ties between universities, industries, and the government. Furthermore, the University Intellectual Property Headquarters and Technology Licensing Organizations increasingly promote innovation within educational institutions. Over twelve percent of all research and development was performed in universities, with research funds in universities soaring to 41 billion yen.
Through the development of performance metrics in the education sector, policy makers can gauge the relative success or failure of various facets of the system, allowing improvements to be made precisely where needed.Performance metrics point the way toward, and enable the development of strategies and policies that directly address the root cause of problems. Making small, surgically precise modifications then allows observers to evaluate the resulting change through an improved or degraded data set of measurements.
Establishing apprenticeship centers would ease the transition for students from an academic environment to the work environment. Apprenticeship programs would also allow recent graduates to acquire invaluable experience in their respective industries, while at the same time enabling organizations to acquire affordable temporary workers to aid in their operations, as well,providing a pool of promising future employees.
To improve the state of education, accreditation boards for educators may be established. For example, there might be an Association of Certified Educators, an autonomous body charged with the responsibility of regulating the qualification standards for those in the education profession. Various certifications may be offered for subject specializations and levels of education. A recognized set of professional standards, in addition to helping improve the quality of education, could provide a level of prestige based on achievement which would motivate those already in the field to greater accomplishment, and attract high-quality individuals to the teaching profession.
Our world has significantly evolved due to the rapid digitalization and new media. Part of a child’s education nowadays should include coaching in the proper and responsible use of media, which should be integrated into everyday education experience. Due to social media, the problem of bullying has migrated into the virtual realm, making it even more difficult to manage. Young students should be taught the positive uses of media platforms that offer incredible potential for learning and growing. As children mature in a technologically advanced educational environment,their interests in the world hidden within the technology and the broader world around them, brought closer by that very technology, may encourage them to seek higher and more advanced education. As we have already noted, research indicates a positive correlation between education achievement, and economic prosperity. Advancing the cause of education at all levels can only be a positive development for the UAE.
Encouragement of corporations by government to fund research and development projects within universities not only promotes innovation, but also provides an environment where students experience that environment on a daily basis. The Abu Dhabi government has already taken the initiative in facilitating innovation. With the input of private corporations funding research and development in universities, fundinglevels will significantly increase, and innovative leaders of the future will be discovered.
Abu Dhabi has made significant progress in establishing its presence in the international market through various global initiatives such asthe Drones for Good Award. The ultimate goal for any education sector is to export their services to the international market. The current trend among students worldwide is towards the preference for a foreign education which many feel will provide them with increased career opportunities. Abu Dhabi can leverage this trend and attract students to the Emirate for quality education, a strategy that is bound to increase global recognition of local educational institutions and facilities.by