Students at the annual conference on Future of Education in the UAE said teachers should experiment with alternative teaching methods. Picture for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Zarina Fernandes/Gulf News Archives

Abu Dhabi: Poor English language teaching and lack of career orientation were cited by Emirati students as the main challenges they face.

Students told the fourth annual conference on Future of Education in the UAE, organised by the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studeis and Research, they think teachers should be encouraged to break away from the tried-and-tested whenever possible

Omar Al Muhairi, who studies mechanical and computer engineering at the American University of Sharjah, said school administrations should facilitate this flexibility in teachers, not expect them to iron out their techniques to fit the preponderant majority of students. “I think one of the detriments of the massproduction of education is the loss of the integral, nuanced approach to teaching,” he said.

He suggested as an initial step, one class every week could be dedicated to alternative teaching: the teacher would teach in a new way of their own device, and student feedback will help them develop their new techniques further.

Suhailah Al Makhmasi, a PhD student at the Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research, said she faced difficulties in her study because of her poor English. She cited the lack of orientation as the second main challenge she faced in her academic life.

Students also suggested encouraging research. Al Muhairi said a student who has never experienced first-hand the gratification of information-finding will never stop slacking and “just getting by”. The solution is to force them to do the extra work. This done often enough will stem the negligence. This and stricter criteria for the students the better.

Fatima Al Merri, Chief Executive Officer of the Dubai Schools Agency’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), chaired the student panel discussion titled ‘Student Perspectives on Innovation Knowledge Production and the Internationalisation of Education.’

Fatima was joined by students from Paris Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi (PSUAD), the American University of Sharjah and the Khalifa University of Science, Technolgy and Research (KUSTAR), who gave first-hand insight into current perspectives on the UAE’s education system and what needs to be addressed in order to establish a healthy knowledge economy based on strong academic institutions.

Following the student panel discussion, Dr Jamal Sanad Al Suwaidi, Director General, the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR), said: “I am deeply thankful and grateful to all of the academics, researchers, experts and speakers at this conference for what they have contributed in terms of scientific effort, as represented by academic research papers and insights into the future of education in the UAE. Over the course of two days and four panel sessions rich in debate, interaction and participation we have witnessed stimulating discussions on the knowledge society and the development of creativity and innovation in the UAE.”

Dr Al Suwaidi added: “The discussions and recommendations that have come out of this conference inspire confidence in the future, and this is doubled by our leadership’s faith and confidence in our people — men, women and especially the youth. They are placing all their hope on what the youth will provide, given the infrastructure put in place for a knowledge and innovation society by our leadership that includes one of the best systems of education and scientific research in the world.”