Education officials: 'World can learn from cultural diversity in UAE schools'
School chiefs across the globe can learn from the UAE's education system as it fosters global citizenship, according to politicians and industry officials.
UNESCO’s assistant director general, Hans d’Orville, who was in Dubai to speak at the Global Education and Skills Forum yesterday, told 7DAYS that the leaders of the Emirates have set an example of peaceful coexistence unlike anywhere else in the world.
“I remember, when I first came here, I said, ‘Singapore (which has a reputation as a peaceful multi-cultural society), you ain’t seen nothing yet. You will get seven times Singapore in Dubai’,” said d’Orville, crediting the UAE rulers for their efforts.
“I think the lesson of the UAE is simply in its leadership. Political leadership has to give you the space to do precisely that - to bring different nationalities together at school level and also at the business level,” the UNESCO boss said.
“This gives you the spirit to want to be open and to integrate with people of different identities and cultures, and see how they can live together. I think the peaceful experience of Dubai attests that such a model works.”
Echoing the UNESCO boss’ view, Indian minister for human resources development, Shashi Tharoor said the UAE’s education model is presumed to instill tolerance. “No baby is born intolerant – it is inculcated. And the example of the UAE is not one that promotes intolerance,” said Tharoor, stressing the importance of learning to communicate across differences.
“An important aspect of fostering global citizenship is ‘what goes into educational curriculum when you are teaching good citizenship?’ If your textbooks are telling students that their country is the best in the world - and that all others must be disdained or rejected or even opposed, then clearly that is not a prescription for global citizenship,” said the minister.
“That may create people with a fierce sense of local sense of pride, but it does not give you people who are evolved to interact meaningfully with people of other cultures or nationalities or religions,” he explained.
“But in today’s global economy, more and more people are having to react and relate to each other - they have to deal with people who don’t look like them, talk like them, worship like them, eat like them... the ability to do that is what I would define as global citizenship,” said Tharoor.
Meanwhile, educators from around the Middle East also applauded the UAE’s developments in the education sector. “The UAE has an excellent model especially because from a government perspective, they have regulated systems that make it easy for private investors to enter the market,” said Riadh Al Hassani, president of Target Training in Kuwait. “We can see there’s enormous private schools, colleges, universities in the UAE - but as a reflection you can see that many other big countries in the region don’t have such a structure.”
“That shows the government’s commitment and willingness to expand and open the market for private education,” Al Hassani said. “I really invite all the region to come and learn from the UAE. I hope the UAE government can show them what they have done and help them customise it to their respective regions,” the training executive added.