James Mullan and James MacDonald Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: For 2019, students in the UAE should explore creative fields and acquire social skills, while parents will continue to appreciate stable school fees, education experts have said in their outlook for the New Year.

Some of the skills that will be most the sought-after in 2019 include creative and social intelligence, said Christina Kallas, head of enrolment and outreach at SAE Institute in Dubai.

Sought-after degrees

Kallas added: “A careful analysis of current trends and reports leads us to conclude that the most sought-after degrees in 2019 will be those in the creative fields, and the most sought-after skills will be soft skills. Animation, audio, design, film and games development are some examples of creative fields, with more and more companies in the market looking for qualified professionals with this expertise.”

The UAE has, Kallas said, long focused on expanding its creative, cultural and arts industries, with investments in media, studio and festival “cities” or special zones. There are various degrees in creative fields offered in the UAE for students to choose from — be it Audio, Animation, Design, Film-making or Games Development.

Redefining education

Meanwhile, increased interactions with machines and computers necessitates a rethink of what “education” means to the modern day student, said James MacDonald, Vice President – Education, GEMS Education.

“A major trend that will go well beyond 2019 is cybernetics — the human connections between computer networks and AI. This is not a distant reality, as every time you Google something on your phone you are using AI to augment your cognition. This cybernetic connection is going to grow stronger and faster, and as educators we need to rethink what it means for modern day student to be ‘educated’,” MacDonald added.

Another trend he sees for 2019 is a departure from rote learning and greater diversity in the kinds of schooling models available in the UAE.

“The UAE has amazing aspirations and innovation will be the key to its future. But schools that reward students for regurgitating facts on standardised tests won’t produce innovators. Expect the role of standardised testing challenged this year, as more practitioners ask how inspections driven by standardised test results can evolve to better address the differing needs of the variety of schools within the UAE,” MacDonald said.

School fees

The school scene in the UAE in 2018 was summed up by one word — “affordable” — said James Mullan, Co-Founder, WhichSchoolAdvisor.com. There was a government freeze on school fees in Dubai (which lasts till the end of the ongoing academic cycle in June 2019), and some schools even reduced fees.

“It’s likely that this trend will continue through 2019, particularly through the premium school sector — schools charging in excess of Dh60,000 a year — as the schools operating in this area continue to feel pressure,” Mullan said.

‘Point of difference’

Increasing competition — over 20 new schools opened in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in 2018 — affects not only fees, but also pushes schools to differentiate themselves from others.

“Schools need to be prepared to put in the hard yards over the coming decade and also offer a point of difference in such a competitive market. This could be delivery of excellent academic results, a focus on sport, art and/or the performing arts.”

What else is in store for 2019?

- There will probably be lessons and activities themed after peaceful coexistence as 2019 has been declared as the “Year of Tolerance” in the UAE

- Schools following the curriculum of the Ministry of Education will teach more classes on the life of the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, UAE’s first president

- The results of the second Dubai Student Wellbeing Census will be released to schools in February

- The winner of the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2019 — worth $1 million (Dh3.67 million) — will be announced in March in Dubai.