Principals Roundtable for Moral Education
People at the ‘Principals Roundtable for Moral Education’ event held in Dubai. Image Credit: Atiq Ur Rehman/Gulf News

Dubai: UAE school principals on Tuesday outlined challenges facing Moral Education (ME), including time limitations, need for specialised teacher training and methods of assessment.

Their comments came during the first-ever ‘Principals Roundtable for Moral Education’ in Dubai, which is also scheduled to be held in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

During the day’s concluding session in Dubai, principals were invited to share concerns and recommendations for ME, a mandatory new programme for all schools in the UAE, which was rolled out in phases since 2017.

Mohammad Al Neaimi
Mohammad Al Neaimi, director of the Educational Affairs Office at the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince’s Court, talks during the event. Image Credit: Atiq ur Rehman/Gulf News

Tuesday’s feedback came from school leaders speaking on behalf of their roundtable at the event, comprised of around six to eight principals per table. More than 180 public and private principals from across the UAE participated on the first day.

Representing her table, Nargish Khambatta, principal of GEMS Modern Academy in Dubai, said schools were pressed for time to teach ME as a separate subject.

‘Biggest bogeyman’

“I think many schools will find that the challenges are all common. Time seems to be the biggest bogeyman here. It is a big constraint and I think all our schools are struggling with it. Should it be a standalone subject or should it be integrated — that is something we [principals at the table] pondered over,” she added.

“If the ME curriculum is integrated [with existing subjects], it is well mapped, and most of our schools have the internal expertise to do that.”

Specialised training

Khambatta said another concern raised by the roundtable was that some of the ME content was “very dry and heavy”.

“For example, financial literacy — how many of our teachers can deliver a lesson on financial literacy, which is part of one of the [ME] pillars. And so, training for teachers or identifying the right teachers for the right topics is very essential … The recommendation for that would be specialised training for these dry or content-heavy topics,” she added.

Assessment methods

A third issue mentioned was the way ME should be tested or assessed. “For assessment, we would like it to be more of a reflection, more of a project-driven way rather than a marks-oriented way … How do you even define the difference between a 60 per cent and an 80 per cent in terms of ‘good moral conduct’?”

Mariam Ahmad, principal of Habitat School (Al Tallah campus) in Ajman, said ME, instead of being assessed separately, should be integrated with the existing “behaviour management policy in schools” that assigns grades for student conduct.

‘Moral compass’

Earlier in the day, Mohammad Al Neaimi, director of the Educational Affairs Office at the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince’s Court, presented an overview of ME and its journey so far.

In his address, Al Neaimi emphasised to school leaders the importance of engaging parents and encouraging families to become more involved in the programme. He said: “The curriculum is designed to include parents as their children explore moral development in school, complementing their upbringing in the home.”

Al Neaimi added: “This curriculum has been developed with the diversity of all the UAE residents in mind. It is a baseline upon which we intend to build and develop a strong moral compass for everyone in the UAE.”

ME is an education initiative launched under the directive of Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. It is now taught in all grades in both private and public schools.