With a gathering of over 1500 educators, school leaders and university leaders, the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) launched its strategy for knowledge production at its annual Education Leaders Forum, marking the start of the 2015-16 academic year.
Dr Amal Al-Qubaisi, ADEC's Director General, addressed the gathering by stressing the importance of engaging the education leaders and school teachers in a journey towards transformation.
"Through your hard work and over the last five years, Abu Dhabi schools have made significant progress at all levels of the education process. ADEC is keen on having its school leaders and teachers develop the transformation strategy; they are our experts and they are our thought leaders, and this strategy is their work," she stressed.
In 2010, ADEC began deploying the Abu Dhabi School model, which focuses on 21st century skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, global citizenship, applied knowledge and communication, in all schools in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, beginning with KG-Grade 3 and reaching Grade 8 this academic year. In addition, ADEC placed a high priority on supporting the values, culture and heritage of the UAE in close coordination with the Ministry of Education. Recently, ADEC announced the complete restructuring of Cycle 3 (high school) in public schools with a focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), beginning this academic year.
"The journey of transformation involves a massive focus on STEM and building a sustained strong culture of education. Without scientific research, we cannot achieve the full vision of a knowledge producing society. ADEC will even transform KG children's story books to include stories about science and technology," said Dr. Al Qubaisi.
In higher education, Abu Dhabi has witnessed the development of universities in partnership with some of the world's top universities as well as significant progress in the development of UAE national universities.
"But the world is not standing still. The race to the top is getting more and more competitive. A holistic view encompassing all aspects of the education system from P-12 to Post-Graduate Master's and Doctoral Education, as well as on-hands job market experience are all required," added Dr Al-Qubaisi.
Today, the world is witnessing tremendous global shifts in science and technology. From the Internet of Things, Smart Cities and Autonomous Cars, to Cognitive Computing systems that can understand context, analyse and convert information to knowledge, to developing custom DNA sequences for massive storage as memories for computing systems; we are approaching the tipping point of a revolution in science and technology. The impact on education systems will be tremendous.
Yet the national output in science and technology in key measures of knowledge production, such as scientific publications, patents and technology start-ups remains low. The proportion of university graduates, especially at the Masters and PhD levels remains far below what is needed.
"Excellence in education is about building a strong culture of education throughout society, and this requires a critical partnership, the most important partnership is a partnership with parents. Education systems that don't anticipate the future will miss the future," said Dr Al-Qubaisi.
Sustainable economic prosperity requires a generation of innovators and entrepreneurs in science and technology, and requires building a knowledge producing society that competes on the world stage.
"Over the last five years, we planted the seeds for transforming our education system. Over the next five years we will transcend and reach new heights – we will achieve the promise of a world class education system," said Dr Al-Qubaisi.
The launching of the ADEC strategy for knowledge production marks a call for the beginning of a new era in Abu Dhabi education and scientific research. A call for unprecedented partnership between government, education and industry, bringing together the collective resources, energy, ideas, passion and resolve of the education, government and industry sectors singularly focused on achieving a common vision of a knowledge producing society, the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and Chairman of ADEC.
"Our job will not be easy, and we cannot be successful working alone, isolated from our esteemed educators, students and parents, industry, businesses and community around us. In fact to succeed in fulfilling the vision of our great leadership, we need to partner with the community at large on a scale never before attempted. Two hands is always greater than one," concluded Dr Al-Qubaisi.
The Transformation The strategy for knowledge production is driven by key principles. These principals include building strong values and achieving the right outcomes for the UAE. Emiratisation is one of the key principles for developing role models and sustainability. In addition, a key guiding principle involves developing a holistic system-wide perspective that looks at all levels of education as an integrated and seamless system.
The principal driver of knowledge producing societies is a workforce that includes: top notch scientists and technologists in priority area domains, innovating solutions in service of society; and visionary business leaders and entrepreneurs forming new companies and creating wealth.
Producing such a workforce, in today's global competitive landscape, requires a multidimensional perspective. To that end, the ADEC Strategy for building a knowledge producing society is developed along four pillars: Knowledge Systems: ADEC's transformation strategy places great emphasis on Science and Technology innovation systems. "We must support applied research in partnership with industry and focus on the priority area sectors of Abu Dhabi." Said Dr Al-Qubaisi. Scientific research is the foundation for innovation. Without scientific research, we cannot achieve the full vision of a knowledge producing society.
STEM education is central to the development of Abu Dhabi. To produce a human capital of scientists and innovators, ADEC will focus on STEM education from the early childhood to Cycle 3 (high school) and on to higher education and post graduate education. ADEC will even transform KG children's story books to include stories about science and technology.
ADEC's Innovation Initiatives will be implemented as a partnership between the schools, higher education and industry. The initiatives include building innovation hubs, developing programming skills for producing new applications, forming innovation clubs in every school, bringing Science and Technology experts into the classrooms through the Innovation Ambassador program, and participating in the Abu Dhabi Young Scientist Initiative that builds a culture of innovation through competition.
Culture of Education and Innovation: excellence in education is not just about curricula, governance and infrastructure. Excellence in education is about building a strong culture of education throughout our society: A culture that begins at home and understands the critical importance of early childhood education; and a culture that reveres the role of the teacher and teaching as the noblest of professions, worthy of our highest respect and our highest reward.
In her address to the education leaders, Dr Al-Qubaisi stressed, "achieving success will require a critical partnership - the most important partnership – partnership with the parents. It is the most important partnership because education culture begins at home; it is promoted at home; and it is nourished at home."
ADEC will not just involve parents in the education of their children; ADEC intends to fully partner with them.
"If you want to change culture, begin at home. If you want to promote STEM, begin at home. If you want to truly make a difference in education, reach out to the parents – begin at home," added Dr Al-Qubaisi.
Home-based Talent: Abu Dhabi needs to ensure sustainability of its progress. Sustainability requires home based talent in the schools, universities, scientific research centres and technology-based industries. It shall be ADEC's priority to, recruit, train, and promote national talent and build national-based support systems for all of its programs in schools and universities. This year for example, ADEC welcomed 400 new national teachers to its workforce.
"For P-12, we are keen on having our school leaders and teachers develop the transformation strategy; they are our experts and they are our thought leaders, and this strategy is their work" said Dr Al-Qubaisi.
Education for All: The transformation Strategy is designed to cater to the needs of all learners; from the special needs and gifted to lifelong learners. ADEC will work to accelerate its services for special needs children and their integration to regular classes when appropriate. In addition, ADEC will work with the universities to develop programs that can unlock the potential of its gifted students.
The strategies are implemented along 57 initiatives covering P-12, Higher Education, Innovation and research.
"Many of these initiatives are already underway and we are partnering with the world's very best universities and technology and innovation companies to ensure that these initiatives are successfully implemented. Most importantly we are partnering with our key national stakeholders including our national and partner universities as well as our industries," said Dr Al-Qubaisi.
The initiatives include: My Identity – a campaign designed to reinforce the UAE values, culture and heritage Restructuring of Cycle 3 - a single track focused on STEM in public schools designed to build innovation and entrepreneurship skills with electives supporting career development and a curriculum that builds speech and communication capabilities Innovation Initiatives - designed to build a complete ecosystem for innovation, including innovation laboratories equipped with the latest in STEM education equipment in every school, innovation hubs in Abu Dhabi, Al-Ain and Al-Gharbia regions designed to support innovators in schools, universities and the community, top industry experts as guest lecturers in the classrooms, and much more.
Innovative Education Pedagogies – flip laboratories and classrooms and opportunities in experiential learning in partnership with industry Community Schools – designed to integrate the schools with the community Parental Engagement – designed to develop close partnerships between parents and schools Student Support – extensive in-class and after school support program for all students Child Protection – work with all stakeholders to ensure that children in schools and pre-schools are protected from harm Career Guidance and Counselling – equip every school with counsellors to help guide and support the students Supporting Special Needs Children and Young Adults: differentiated educational opportunities at both the P-12 and higher education levels Supporting the Gifted – comprehensive programs providing tailored learning opportunities involving a collaboration between P-12, higher education and industry.
Professional Development of Teachers and School Leaders: connecting professional development to the results of school inspections so as to focus on the areas of greatest need Teach for UAE: an initiative designed to bring top talent from top universities into the school system Building Talent At Home – increasing the percentage of national school educators and administrators Promoting and Supporting Research – working with industry and universities to support applied research by promoting collaborative applied research centres Aligning Abu Dhabi Higher Education Scholarships with Priorities – working with priority industries to ensure that scholarships are focused on areas relevant to economic growth What Will Be the Outcome in Five Years? In five years, Abu Dhabi will create a world class education and innovation ecosystem strongly connected to the business and industry communities. By 2018, ADEC expects that P-12 graduates will be well grounded in STEM and prepared to enter higher education with no foundation year. This will help universities focus their resources better and will be an important step towards achieving an innovation-driven, knowledge-producing society.
Through applied R&D, patents will drive the creation of start-ups to commercialise new products and help diversify the economy. University research centres would help local industry differentiate their offerings and better compete globally.
ADEC has developed annual key performance indicators to measure year-on-year progress. These indicators were carefully selected based on international benchmarks and best practices. The indicators were selected to measure progress in terms of output achievement at the system level, institution level and student level.