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Dubai: Schools today struggle to keep up with teaching fast-changing technologies – and their relevance – as well as building “transferable skills” sought by universities and employers, a leading educationist said.

Daniel Adkins, CEO of Transnational Academic Group, the education management services provider for Curtin University Dubai (Curtin Dubai), said it was necessary to teach students how technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) are used in real life.

His remarks came during an exclusive interview with Gulf News on the sidelines of the finale of ‘DEWA Business Cup Challenge 2019’, organised by Curtin Dubai. This year’s focus of the challenge (which saw over 1,200 secondary school students in 225 teams from over 60 schools participating) was how AI can be used in actual business case studies of real UAE companies.

Adkins said learning technology for technology’s sake is not enough, that students must be made capable of going beyond the scientific aspect alone.

Reality versus hype

“Schools struggle to keep up with the curriculum when it comes to very fast advancing technologies… So by having a challenge based on that, it gets the students to do some research on their own and learn about what this technology is that they’re hearing so much about in the news, and to really understand what’s real and what’s hype,” he added.

Adkins said it was essential to remain grounded in practicality, while also encouraging creativity of students. Contests like the business cup “not only exposes [students] to technologies that they’re probably going to have to work with in their career, but also helps improve their critical thinking as they find out what really is, and is not, possible”.

Generally, at school, students usually do not get such opportunities, according to Adkins.

Disruption everywhere

“If the students were doing cases that were based on technology for technology’s sake, they wouldn’t really gain much understanding of what the technologies are going to do in impacting every aspect of business, so we specially picked cases using companies that they would be aware of and they would have a good understanding of, so that they could see how technologies are going to end up being the disruptor in every single area of business.”

Also, working on such case studies under the pressure of a large challenge helps build “transferable skills”, such as teamwork, critical and creative thinking, and researching independently and credibly, Adkins said.

Future employability

“To me, the most important consideration is, [the business challenge] gives students the opportunity to face a real world challenge and develop skills that are going to be required of them, both in university and in their careers. Transferable skills are so important to future employability, and that’s what we are hoping achieve with [the business challenge].”

He said such skills and opportunities are “something that they don’t necessarily get in school”. Exceptions are, Adkins added, schools that use “a problem-based learning approach” through applied projects or competitions.