From ancient times until now education reform has been taking place and will continue for the foreseeable future.
Education reform is the term given to the deliberate actions taken with the explicit goal of improving education on a countrywide scale. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) like many other countries is undergoing a massive education reform. It is the hope of the leaders of this country that the improvements in education will bring large-scale returns in; health, wealth and well-being, placing the country firmly on the path to being a global leader.
Historically, reforms have taken different forms because the motivations of reformers have differed. The reformers are eager to implement changes which they believe will benefit students, parents and all the relevant stakeholders. They are also keen on ensuring that each child who enters the education system achieves to their fullest potential. As one can imagine, this is no easy feat.
The goals of education reform around the world vary considerably. A stated goal for education reform in the UAE is to transform the country from that of oil based to a more knowledge based economy. This process includes the use of the English language in the delivery of the core subjects of Mathematics, English and Science in schools from Kindergarten to University. It also involves the employment of native English speaking teachers from around the world and the introduction of more student centred approaches to teaching and learning.
This reform has taken many forms and directions. The very nature of a reform makes it both exciting and challenging all at the same time, because things are constantly changing. Teachers are integral to its success or its failure. It takes a certain caliber of teacher to thrive in a reform.
Is that teacher you? Reflecting on the questions below will give you a fair idea of whether or not you are suited to working in an education reform setting:
Are you patient?
Working in an education reform may mean that you might have to wait many years before you can see any visible changes in the system or your students.
Can you focus more on the process of teaching and learning and less on the product?
Improving the education system ultimately comes down to improving the learning experience of students in their classrooms. The students’ results may not reflect the work immediately but as long as the process of teaching and learning is excellent the results will eventually follow suit.
How well do you deal with challenges?
Each stage of the education reform journey is associated with a unique set of challenges, how you deal with each challenge will determine how successful you are. Being flexible is of paramount importance as things can change at the drop of a hat.
How innovative are you?
An education system undergoing reform may stipulate what needs to be done but it might not state how to do it and so it requires teachers to be very inventive.
Are you a leader?
Leadership is essential not only in sparking reform but in sustaining it. Two things stand out about the leaders of improving systems. Firstly, their longevity and secondly, improving education systems actively cultivate the next generation of leaders, ensuring a smooth transition of leadership and the longer-term continuity in reform goals.
In the midst of all the heat of education reform, it is good to step back and remind ourselves of what we are ultimately trying to achieve. What is the end goal of education reform? Most would probably agree that the goal is to create dynamic classrooms and schools, which are better than the ones we have now. While some of us would prefer to see immediate changes, we will have to wait for the process to unfold. An important thing to keep in mind is that education reform takes determination and cannot be rushed.
By Leisa Simapili