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Dr. Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, UAE’s Minister of Education addressing during the Alef Education Summit. Photo Ahmad Alotbi/Gulf News

Dubai: The UAE Ministry of Education is pushing Artificial Intelligence (AI) ahead in schools. Moves are underway to put together a policy that will provide guidelines to faculty and teachers on how best to use language models for generative AI.

This way, AI-enabled tutoring will be incorporated in schools across the Emirates.

The announcement was made by Dr. Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, UAE’s Minister of Education on the sidelines of a day-long summit held at the Museum of Future.

Education Summit

The Alef Education Summit themed “The Future of Education in the World of Digitisation” saw educators, teachers, students and key decision-makers coming together from around the world to address the latest digital solutions for the education sector.

The Summit aimed to encourage the use of technology and explore the latest innovations with the potential to reshape the EdTech sector.

The day-long summit focused on key topics impacting the education sector, including the Future of Education, Education and Generative AI, Immersive Digital Learning, and Personalised Learning. In addition, the summit will also address cutting-edge AI and data analytics solutions to help the global EdTech sector to mitigate prevailing challenges.

Training the teachers

The UAE Minister of Education in his keynote address said this summer will be busy for educators training their faculty and teachers such large language models. “This summer will be busy with teachers and faculty redesigning the way they teach. The goal is to help students interact with these large language models while ensuring they [students] have the right learnings,” said Al Falasi.

He said: “As developments in science and education technology accelerate around the world, the traditional methods of teaching have been transformed, with innovative tools revolutionising the classroom through interactive and distant learning.”

GPT-powered tutors

The Ministry of Education recently announced its commitment to adopting trailblazing technologies, and collaborating with partners to develop GPT-powered AI tutors.

“As a result of our sustained investment in digital infrastructure, the UAE has a wealth of data at its fingertips to help us better understand where, when and how interventions are required to ensure that our students have the best learning outcomes and prepare them for the current and future job market. The wealth of data that we’ve amassed over the years means that today we are able to continuously assess the impact of our policies and make adjustments accordingly.”

The UAE Minister for Education said: “We have all been through Covid and realised how important technology is to education. Rather than thinking of technology as a tool to overcome a crisis, we should think of it as a tool to help us transform education.”

Public sentiment towards technology

“Technology and the public sentiment towards technology has gone through cycles,” said Al Falasi.

“When technology came into education it came into the form of tools. So it was very fancy to have the latest technology. Then came a time when people were oversaturated. They began to think if one focussed a lot on technology, they might compromise on quality. Even the best schools right now have gone back to having classes in the traditional way.”

Al Falasi, now however the sentiment has shifted towards a need for having the best infrastructure in education. Post Covid brought to light that infrastructure is key to education. In UAE classes were online. Also, meetings were online. All systems were tested tremendously and the faith in the need for proper infrastructure in education grew.”

“This stage is very exciting. It is very transformative as it is causing teachers, academicians, educators globally to reassess how they teach and assess students.”

Student assessments

Al Falasi added that the UAE is one of the highest in the region in terms of its students’ assessments, however it is not one of the highest globally.

“It is no secret that here in the region, we were late to formal education. Therefore our results globally are not one the highest. UAE is one of the highest in the region but compared to the global standards we still lack behind in assessments. Technology and tools we have available will bridge that gap,” said the UAE Minister for Education.

How technology can make a difference

Al Falasi noted that data capture can greatly improve the profile of a student. “With data capture, we are able to understand students – where they are excelling and where they are struggling to cope. There is a great deal of feedback we get of the students. This does not overshadow the role of the teacher. The teacher end of the day is a Minister of Education in every classroom.”

Geoffrey Alphonso, CEO of Alef Education - a UAE-based education technology provider also said: “Today we live in an age where technology is transforming many industries, and the pace of digital transformation in the education sector has accelerated the last two years. Whether through new Generative AI tools or the metaverse, technology is moving at the speed of light.

"Every stage of education, from primary to higher education as well as professional and workplace training, has undergone a shift towards online and cloud-based delivery platforms.”

Digital learning

Mark East, Managing Director of Education, EMEA and Asia, Microsoft, added: “Microsoft has played a key role in developing education-focused technologies. We have long been deeply immersed in education. In a world of digitisation, digital learning is now a necessity for the future of education. We are living in a time of great change.”

John Vamvakitis, Managing Director of Google for Education, said: “With the advent and proliferation of digital learning environments, Google is looking forward to implementing the latest innovative technologies into our suite of products.”

Box: The value of the EdTech sector is forecast to grow to $605 billion by 2027. Much of this will be due to mobile technology, cloud services, and virtual reality creating new possibilities for accessible and immersive learning.