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Dr Abdulla Al Karam, Director General at the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) recently penned a letter to the principals of private schools in Dubai. The letter will be delivered with a special gift – a ‘Knowledge Box’ – which includes Educating Ruby, a book about the survival skills students need to lead happy and productive lives. Each box will be hand-delivered to the school principal by a member of the KHDA team.

Welcome back to school. I hope you’re feeling as excited as I am about starting the new academic year.

With this letter, you’ll find a copy of Educating Ruby, a book about the skills and attributes that will benefit our children as they grow and navigate the world. As I thought about these qualities, I realised that they’re beneficial both for students and for us as adults and professionals. They both come from and lead to happier students, teachers and parents.

In the context of some of these attributes, I’d like to share with you our new and existing initiatives for the coming weeks and months, all designed to lead to an even better and happier private education sector in Dubai:

We believe that collaboration is the key to high quality education. This year, we’re starting some exciting new projects and initiatives, as well as continuing others that you have enjoyed and found useful.

What Works is back for its fifth year, and it’s going to be bigger than ever. This time round, three ‘Mega What Works’ events – one for each school term – will focus on Happiness, Tolerance and the Future, in line with the new UAE ministerial posts. More than 12,000 teachers and school leaders have attended What Works since it started in 2012, and we look forward to bringing together even more educators from across Dubai to share, learn and have fun.

We’re also excited about the initiatives that What Works has inspired – namely, the Lighthouse project and Living Arabic. The Lighthouse groups of principals have been working together on the ten attributes that light the way to positive education and happier lives, and we’re excited to see the results. Each group will be presenting what they’ve learned at What Works.

Schools across Dubai hosted six Living Arabic events last year and had great response from the Arabic teachers who attended. To keep things fresh this year, Living Arabic will include action research-based elements and continue to inspire the love of Arabic in teachers and students in Dubai.

We’re always looking at new, creative approaches to make education better and happier. This academic year, the Abundance Group will be coming together for the first time. This is a group of schools which will be involved in projects designed to give more to other schools and the wider Dubai education community. We’ll be sharing more details about the Abundance Group’s projects towards the end of September.

We’ll also be continuing with Dubai Saturday Club, a service and design-based initiative for students started last academic year. We were humbled with the support we received from parents, students and social entrepreneurs across Dubai, and we look forward to seeing the innovative ideas our students will have this year.

We’re also interested in your creative approaches to education. The KHDA team and I will continue to visit schools this year to see the fun and innovation your teachers and students are working on – if you’ve got something special to show us, please get in touch.

We are curious to find out more about how well positive education is working in Dubai, and to improve our policy-making, we’ve given the annual KHDA survey a makeover. Previously tied to school inspections, the new unified School of Hearts & Minds survey will ask principals, teachers, parents and students questions about all aspects of their teaching and learning experience. We look forward to sharing the results of this survey with you later in the year.

Each of us in the education community – including school leaders, teachers, students, parents, regulators and the private sector – are committed to a world-class education sector in Dubai, and we’ve all been working together to achieve the targets of the 2021 National Agenda. The latest round of PISA and TIMSS results to be released In November and December will reflect our joint commitment to better and happier education.

Education in Dubai continues to get bigger and better. This year, a record 15 new schools will be joining the Dubai education community, bringing the total capacity of private schools in Dubai to 300,000. I wish all the principals and teachers of the new schools a warm welcome to Dubai and to our happy community.

In May, we reported a significant increase in the proportion of students attending schools rated good or better: 61%, compared with 30% in 2008. As we come closer to Dubai Expo 2020, the sense of confidence in what we can achieve as an education community grows.

By working together, I am confident that we can continue to craft a private education sector like no other in the world – built on a solid foundation of happiness and wellbeing, and supported by the passion and expertise of everyone working within it.

I hope you have a happy new academic year.

Dr Abdulla Al Karam

– KHDA Media