Humaid Al Qutami, UAE Minister of Education, with Dr Mugheer Al Khaili, ADEC Director General and Bahraini Education Minister Majid Al Nuaimi at the conference. Image Credit: WAM

Abu Dhabi: The quality of teaching, and finding good teachers remains a challenge across schools. And it will continue to be a problem if not tackled appropriately, said education panelists during the Building Future Education (BFE) Mena and Bett Middle East conference, which kicked off on Sunday.

Among the many other challenges facing the education sector in the 21st century, panelists discussed the importance of transforming teaching into a well-trained profession.

"We now have wired classrooms, voice recognition and e-books which require both teachers and students to keep up with the technological pace," said Carl Bistany, President at Sabis.

"This cannot happen unless we invest in ongoing incentives for teachers, such as on-line training courses to keep them updated and also an increase in salaries. At the end of the day individuals are attracted by money," he said.

Teachers should be empowered to take the responsibility for their own development, argued John Dennehy, former secretary general of the Department of Education and Science in Ireland, and non-executive director at Sammon Group.

"In certain schools, teaching is looked upon as a low status occupation.Teachers are poorly paid, badly trained and have no career prospects. In those circumstances, I suggest that individual schools, raise their standards by investing in quality teachers, increasing salary packages, and empowering each teacher to take responsibility for their own development," said Dennehy.

Education is a commitment that people must willingly adhere to for a lifetime, and it is hard work with slow progress, commented Dr Lynn Pierson, head of P-12 education sector at the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC).

"Even though Abu Dhabi is working on rapid changes in the education sector, changes in the sector won't occur before an 80 year time frame. That's why conferences like this are important, because they help highlight not only the importance of school infrastructures, but what happens within school buildings. Both are equally important in order to discuss where changes need to occur," said Pierson.

There is no set of universal skills that apply to a single country in the world, highlighted Chadi N. Moujaes, principal at Booz and Company. "The UAE needs to customise its approach to education according to its own socio-economic situation. What may apply in Europe, Singapore or the US may not be applicable to the UAE. We need to identify the skills we want our children to adhere to through a fully fledged learning eco-system, and that doesn't stop at the doorstep of the school, it's an ongoing process," he said.

In his speech on the 2nd annual exhibition, Humaid Al Qutami, UAE Minister of Education, commended efforts made by the ADEC in attracting investors, developers, schools, and universities from all over the region to exchange their expertise.

At a glance

- The Building Future Education Mena is under the patronage of General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and Abu Dhabi Education Council Chairman.

- The conference ends on Monday.