Abu Dhabi: Educators should consider involving school and university students in their aim to improve education across the UAE, a practice that has been proven to be efficient in the developed world.

During the concluding panel discussion at yesterday's annual education conference, Dr Samia Al Farra, Chief Education Officer at Taaleem, spoke about the importance of listening to students.

She cited a study conducted by Harvard University, called "What do school students need?" which she felt should be practiced across schools and universities in the UAE to help better understand students' needs, thus improving the educational system.

According to the Harvard research, some of the responses given by students included: : ‘Take me seriously,' ‘Challenge me to think,' ‘Let me do it my way,' ‘Build on my interests,' ‘Encourage me to be creative,' ‘Let me feel I am important,' and ‘Get the best out of me.'

Private tuition

"One of the problems facing our school education is that of private tuition, which has not been overcome yet. Private tuition results in students paying less attention in class rooms, and more frustration building up among teachers," the professor said.

During her speech on Education in the UAE, ‘Current status and future developments', Dr Hessa Abdullah Lootah, Assistant Professor, Department of Mass Communication at UAE University, defined western science as "negatively affecting the essence of creativity and the spiritual dimension of mankind."

"The massive destruction suffered by the world is originally based on ideas of scientists who produced instruments of destruction because they looked at the idea of achievement alone without researching its effects and consequences.

Education should be based on Islamic cultural thought, which includes the foundations of the integrated view of the universe and sciences," Dr Hessa said. The UAE has been too dependent on non-specialists in the education sector, she added.

"Most of our so called specialists in education, involve individuals who lack understanding and awareness of the Islamic intellectual achievements that can be applied in education. Many of the recent calls for education reform in the UAE claim that they aim to spread the spirit of tolerance among students. In fact, this results in intolerance and extremism.

"The abolition of Islamic thought which accepts pluralism in its essence, is what will result in intolerance and deviate mankind from the balance we seek," Dr Hessa added.

What do you think of this initiative? As a student, what issues do you face in the education system? What improvements would you like to see? Tell us what you think at readers@gulfnews.com