The recently concluded International and Private Schools Education Forum (IPSEF) held on September 24th to 26th at The Conference Centre inside the Knowledge Village in Dubai, spanned two days that were jam-packed with interesting conference sessions. The third and final day, September 26th was dedicated to school visits. The conference featured some of the brightest experts within the fields of education, architecture and finance among other key industries.
IPSEF provides a platform from which effective partnerships among senior figures from schools, investors in education, governments and education suppliers can be formed. IPSEF has conducted several events in London, Asia and the Middle East. This was the second successful staging of the forum in Dubai directed by organisers Mark Roelofsen, Rhona Greenhill and their team. Mr Jonathan Hughes-D’Aeth, Head Master of Repton School, Dubai chaired the conference.
On the first day of the conference, presenters examined high schools and the huge rise in population that is projected for the years ahead, as well as, the growing demand for schools offering quality education in Dubai. Presenters on Day Two addressed higher education and spoke of the approximately fifty-one different universities, which are based in Dubai and the high standards that they are setting. Below are some of the highlights from the Day Two of the event that we believe are pertinent to educators.
The Russian Perspective
Zaid Maleh, Vice Chancellor International of Synergy University gave the audience a detailed account on the strengths of the Russian curriculum which was rated 8th and 13th in the world, according to a recently conducted study by Pearson Education and published by the BBC. The Russian curriculum incorporates decades of academic achievements ranging from literature to business to high technologies.
The Future of Learning
How is learning going to be defined in the future? If the future of learning will be different from how it was in the past, what kind of platforms and technologies can enable the future of learning to be different? These are just a few of the questions that Professor Christopher Abraham, Head of Dubai Campus, Senior Vice President of Institutional Development and Professor of Leadership and Behaviour of the SP Jain School of Global Management, tackled during his highly engaging presentation. He noted that some educators still have a Luddite perspective towards employing the use of technologies to enhance learning and looked at possible ways in which this perspective can be changed. He emphasised that training teachers to use the technology is crucial. According to Professor Abraham, many educators have contributed to education being perceived as boring, as they tend to slavishly follow traditional approaches towards teaching. In some instances, this has created students who fear learning and dislike school. He asserted that by employing the use of new technologies to actively engage learners, education could be fun for both the teacher and the students.
Imagination Goes To School…Educating Children In A Time of Rapid Social, Political and Technological Change
Thomas B Farguhar, Head of School, GEMS National Academy spoke eloquently on ways in which some educators teach that deprive students of cognitive development, retention of content or anything that would make the educational experience engaging and memorable for the students. He emphasised that the lack of imagination displayed when presenting the lesson can ultimately minimise the potential for active and engaged learning based on past approaches. He applauded educators today, who have stepped away from the traditional classroom setting. These educators have taken a new approach by making their classrooms; child centred, visually stimulating, safe for risk taking, problem solving, allowing for movement and inquiry-based learning. Educators should also give attention to facilitating the creative and imaginative aspects of students’ development. Mr Farguhar added that great schools today, have a facility that is dedicated to the expansion of imagination and creativity. They are equipped with libraries and media centers, music rooms, music technology rooms, Math labs and dance studios; places where students can explore and/or develop a variety of their strengths. Another area that he addressed was the use of assessments to measure students’ educational growth. He stressed that while he supports the use of standardised assessment, it has been misused in many cases. These instances include using standardised testing/assessments to measure teachers, schools, school systems and nations.
The major highlights of Day Two were:
- To re-introduce The Russian curriculum and its potential benefits to the education landscape of the UAE.
- To examine the significance of new technologies to the development of every nation and its people.
- To remind educators that imagination is important to making learning a more engaging and meaningful activity for today’s learners.
- To emphasise that a great new approach that educational facilities and educators are employing involves incorporating the use of technology in class activities and plenary exercises.
- To encourage educators to stimulate and develop the creativity of students with activities that require the use of imagination.
- To re-evaluate the ways in which standardised tests are used as significant markers for growth in the educational system of the UAE and other countries.
The event underscored key areas of growth within the education system in the UAE, as well as, projections for future developments. IPSEF provided an excellent platform that facilitated progressive discussions by experts in the field of education and related industries. The UAE has been quick to adapt and adopt new technologies and should advance at a much quicker pace, as the education reform progresses, provided that educators are equipped with the requisite skills and training to impart to their students.
Photos courtesy of IPSEF.