What would you do if the English skills of students in your country were not at an acceptable level? Make changes. In the United Arab Emirates, where educational reform is currently underway, changes began with visionary leaders.
In his address to the nation in March of 2007, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, identified improvement of the nation's schools as a top priority for the country. Following the priorities set by H.H Sheikh Mohammed, the Madares Al Ghad program was created by His Excellency Dr. Hanif Hassan, Minister of Education. The vision of the program is to create in the United Arab Emirates a world-class public education that will not only serve the Emirati children, but will also become the model for public education throughout the Middle East.
Features of the Madares Al Ghad program:
- international best practice in educational methods and techniques;
- professional development for teachers and administrators;
- innovative curricula that combine international best practice with regional sensitivity and cultural practices;
- forward-looking school facilities that support student-centered, active learning experiences;
- classrooms rich in the use of technology to enhance learning;
- educational links with other educational institutions worldwide.
Goals of the program
One of the primary goals of the educational reform program is to increase the involvement of Emirati teachers and school administrators as educational leaders in their schools and in their communities. To facilitate this, a team of native English speakers is placed in each UAE school. The team is responsible for working alongside the National staff and serving as advisors, co-teachers, mentors, and professional development specialists.
A personal perspective
I am one of many native English speakers, working as an advisor to grade 1 and grade 2 teachers at Al Saada Primary School in Dubai. After one year with this project, I can testify that the educational reformation has been truly remarkable! Students who were previously taught via lectures and workbooks are now engaged with child-centered learning in an environment rich with English print. Teachers who used the same lessons year after year are experiencing the excitement of collaborative lesson planning, cooperative learning groups, integrated curriculum, and internationally-recognized best practices.
The Arab people with whom I work daily are creative, smart, caring, generous, and ambitious. They are open to new educational techniques and trends. Most are gifted teachers who love their students and want to become master teachers. They also want to share their new teaching skills with others so that the revolution in education can continue to grow. Much appreciation goes to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, His Excellency Dr. Hanif Hassan, and the devoted teachers and principals who have labored to bring about the educational reforms that will affect so many learners, both now and in the future.
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Educational reform in the Middle East