Abu Dhabi: Schools across the emirate of Abu Dhabi must place greater emphasis on enhancing students’ national identity as part of a new emirate-wide initiative that will be implemented in the 2017-2018 academic year.

The Haweyati programme, which will consist of curricular learning and extra-curricular activities, will be rolled out in public and private schools, and its main aim is to propagate a deeper understanding and love for Emirati culture, heritage and values.

At a press conference in the capital on Tuesday, Dr Ali Al Nuaimi, director-general at the emirate’s education sector regulator, the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec), said the programme will also help instill a spirit of entrepreneurship, volunteerism and charity among students.

“The school is considered the best environment to promote knowledge, moral values and national identity, and initiatives such as Haweyati will help build an educated future workforce that is proud of its Emirati identity,” Dr Al Nuaimi said.

There are currently 373,779 schoolchildren in the emirate, and Emiratis make up about 44.3 per cent of the student population. About 63 per cent of Emirati children are enrolled across 255 public schools at present, while the remaining attend one of the 186 private schools.

The Adec has previously studied the need to put in place a comprehensive national identity learning programme. As reported by Gulf News earlier, a 2014 study of private schools found that most institutions felt “the need for a clear and authoritative model of what national identity, culture and citizenship mean for children, be they Emirati, expatriate or more transient international students”. In addition, more than 60 per cent of the 104 private schools that participated in the survey did not have an identified budget for national identity teaching and promotion.

The report also found that some subjects such as Arabic, Islamic education, social studies and UAE social studies placed a stronger focus on national identity than subjects like mathematics, science and ICT. “This suggests that there is room to develop relevant national identity and culture content in this latter group of subjects (maths, science, ICT),” the report recommended.

The Adec, therefore, conducted a pilot Haweyati programme across 50 private schools last year. Based on this, it designated Emirati culture, Emirati society and values, Arabic language, UAE history, citizenship and loyalty as some of the main themes of Haweyati.

While schools have flexibility in deciding how to integrate national identity learning in their curriculum, the officials stressed that the learning must include current events. It must also be engaging, and provide experiential education opportunities. Finally, parents must also be involved in the Haweyati initiatives.

The Adec will soon distribute guidelines that address Haweyati’s national identity teaching, curriculum framework and implementation methods to schools, officials said.