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Dubai is to become the regional capital of positive education, thanks to a Memorandum of Friendship signed between the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) and the International Positive Education Network (IPEN).

Positive education promotes character and wellbeing alongside academic achievement as essential elements of a sustainable, holistic approach to education. It adopts the ‘glass half-full’ perspective on teaching and learning, seeking to improve education by building existing strengths in people and systems, rather than simply fixing weaknesses.

IPEN representatives based in Dubai will expand and support IPEN’s membership in the Middle East, in addition to helping spread awareness of positive education in the region. IPEN will also deliver certified enrichment programmes for teachers and leaders at Dubai’s private schools, as well as collaborate with KHDA on research projects.

The new IPEN website to be launched on March 23 will include teaching resources in English and Arabic, and allow teachers to upload and share their own positive education resources.

Dr Abdulla Al Karam, director general of KHDA, said: “Education grounded in positivity and wellbeing gives children the skills to flourish not just at school, but at life. IPEN’s work has put wellbeing on the global education agenda, and our new friendship will support the commitment that many Dubai schools have already made to happiness, as well as help schools who are starting their positive education journey.”

Sir Anthony Seldon, president of IPEN, said: “This agreement will transform the lives of young people. It takes the wonderful work that has been happening in positive psychology and positive education and applies it to Dubai and the region. We’re excited to set up our first regional branch here and to work together with KHDA to enhance the understanding and practice of positive education.”

Professor Martin Seligman, credited as ‘the father of positive psychology’ and Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, said: “Wellbeing is a goal for the world, and Dubai is uniquely placed to lead the way in educating young people in wellbeing, tolerance and the future.”

Dubai’s schools have taken part in a number of positive education-inspired events and initiatives since 2012, including What Works, a strengths-based series of events for and by teachers in Dubai; the Abundance Group, a project that promotes long-term collaboration between different schools; Lighthouse, an annual initiative designed to bring school principals together to learn from each other; and 100 Days of Positivity, a campaign to share schools’ existing positive education practices and help them integrate wellbeing into the heart of their curricula.

More information about positive education and how it has been applied around the world is available in The State of Positive Education, a report issued by IPEN at the recent World Government Summit in Dubai.

Why positive education?

Students who experience an education based on positivity and wellbeing gain many skills they need to thrive in their lives, among them resilience, optimism, confidence, creativity and gratitude. Positivity and happiness contribute to improved academic performance, but are not viewed as simply a means to an end – they are also an end in themselves.

Positive Education in Dubai – in numbers

66 schools registered to take part in #100DaysOfPositivity, a campaign to highlight best practices in positive education in Dubai’s schools, organised by KHDA and the UAE Minister of State for Happiness.

176 teachers from 87 schools attended positive education seminars and workshops delivered by the Geelong Grammar Institute of Positive Education in Australia

44 teachers from 22 schools took part in ‘Happiness Toolkit’ training delivered by Action for Happiness

285 students from schools across Dubai have visited Hatta Park, a new eco-campus run by KHDA, Singapore’s Ground Up Initiative, and Ecoventures.

58 schools have an active gardening programme designed to enrich learning, supported by Stephen Ritz

150 students have attended 14 sessions of Dubai Saturday Club, an on-going design and social entrepreneurship programme for young people

69,000 parents, teachers and students took part in the ‘School of Hearts and Minds’ survey for Dubai schools

1200 parents signed the pledge to spend time reading with their children for #10Minutes10Days

Attached photo from L-R: Hind Al Mualla, Chief of Creativity, Happiness and Innovation, KHDA; Dr Abdulla Al Karam, director general and chairman of the board of directors, KHDA; Professor Martin Seligman, Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania & IPEN advisory board member; Anthony Seldon, IPEN president; Emily Larson, IPEN director

 – KHDA Media