Dubai: With all eyes on the UAE as it welcomes the world to Expo 2020 Dubai, and with the event’s strong focus on youth, it seems an opportune time to consider the important role of schools in society.
Students of all ages and from across the emirates are incredibly excited, and privileged, to be able to visit and contribute their ideas and dreams to this important global showcase. Our schools are purposefully enhancing their curricula to cover Expo’s themes of ‘Sustainability, Mobility and Opportunity’. In so doing, schools will directly fuel the Expo’s goal of ‘Connecting minds and creating the future’.
The education of our young generations has long been a key priority for governments and nations across the globe – and rightly so. Yet it is important to view schools not merely as neighbourhood service providers, but as essential components of society and agents of change. Thanks to their large sphere of influence and, through their students, their great potential to transform the world for the better, schools play a vital role on both the national and international stages.
Partners in a common goal
The power of schools and education as a whole to transform communities is enhanced through strong collaboration between the private and public sectors. Both need to be working together and in alignment towards a common goal. Here in the UAE, GEMS Education has always collaborated closely with the government to advance the vision of the country’s leaders. In fact, it was in response to their invitation that my parents made the decision to journey to Dubai in 1959, meeting the emirate’s growing demand for high-quality education in English.
Today, aligned to the UAE National Agenda, which aims to transition to a leading knowledge-based economy, promoting innovation, research and development, education providers must answer the nation’s call to promote and foster entrepreneurship in order to unlock the country’s potential and drive economic development.
Focus on soft skills
Schools should therefore be focused on instilling in their students the skills and qualities of leadership, creativity, responsibility and ambition. It is no longer enough for education to be based on the transfer of knowledge alone; instead, schools must prepare our young generations for success by developing in them a growth mind-set, inspiring endless curiosity, building confidence, encouraging risk-taking and informed decision-making, and demonstrating that there is truly no limit to what they can achieve.
In this way, schools play a key role in ensuring that the leaders, entrepreneurs and workforces of tomorrow are fully equipped to contribute positively and responsibly to their communities and economies, generating prosperity and opportunity for all. In fact, entrepreneurship is already deeply engrained in many of our schools, reflected in the ingenious inventions, products and solutions of our students, many of whom are well on their way to running full-scale businesses even before they’ve graduated.
Just as important as developing an entrepreneurial mind-set is the need to prepare our youth for a rapidly changing world, arming them to be able to deal with and overcome the many challenges posed by climate change. Expo’s focus on sustainability is mirrored by that of our schools, and I am proud that climate change literacy is now being embedded in the curriculum across GEMS schools. Nothing could be more pressing, and it is clear that students agree. Our futures, but most importantly their futures depend on it.
At the same time, technology continues to play a major and growing part in the education of youth today, whose access to, and grasp of, exponential technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and virtual, augmented and mixed reality is unprecedented. Spurred on and inspired by ambitious initiatives and strategies like Dubai 10X, young people across the Emirates are playing an active role in realising the vision of the UAE’s leaders by tapping into the latest technologies to develop solutions that better the lives of all. Not a day goes by that I am not amazed by the boundless genius, imagination and ability of our students.
At home in the UAE
It is of course vital that the skills and abilities that are being carefully nurtured in schools today are not lost tomorrow. Which is why I applaud the UAE government’s decision to make it easier for students and young people to remain in this country by introducing initiatives such as the Golden and Green Visas. We want our top talent to continue to call the UAE home so this great nation continues to thrive and stay at the forefront of global development.
With Expo 2020 Dubai spring-boarding us into the future, we can all look ahead with confidence, sure in the knowledge that schools and the education sector as a whole will continue to work in close alignment with the UAE’s leadership. Together, we will ensure there is no limit to our collective success.
- The author is Chairman and Founder of GEMS Education and The Varkey Foundation.