SMART MOVES

Dubai 2020 | EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

Dubai's future in education will benefit from the growing number of international universities and a greater focus on early education for young families.

Abdulla Al Karam
BIOGRAPHY

Abdulla Al Karam is responsible for a wide spectrum of education in Dubai's private sector, spanning early learning, schools, and higher education and training institutes. He has the distinction of holding key positions across the UAE. He is chairman of the Dubai Future Education Council, a member of the International Positive Education Network (IPEN) advisory board, and an education committee member of the Global Council for Happiness and Wellbeing. He is a member of the university council at UAE University and serves on the board of trustees for Dubai Future Foundation and Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences.

How has technology disrupted the education sector in Dubai?
Education is still provided today by teachers; however, the disruption by technology has already started. Students today will not only rely on the time they have in a classroom to learn; they will be learning all the time and connecting with each other more and more. Students will be pushing the sector forward and pushing for the integration of technology. Technology and AI will not only make education better in terms of volume of information and personalization of information, but will also make learning more fun and engaging. AI can be used as a personalized teaching tool at scale, which will change the purpose of a teacher's traditional role in future. The idea of school being brick-and-mortar is changing. School may not continue to be a full-time job for students. As our world continues to change faster and faster, micro credentials and digital badging will also have an impact on how we view and value traditional qualifications

Are we moving toward a more holistic approach to education?
It always helps to go back to the purpose. The word for education in Latin is "educere," and one of the definitions is "to bring out from within." This is the purpose of education. It challenges the more recent notion that education is about 'putting in' rather than 'bringing out.' With the help of technology and AI, education is becoming more personalized; it is becoming more about what individual students do well. Change that took 20 years to happen is now taking just a few years. It is not just the speed of change, but the type of change is different as well. This kind of change will be good for education. Education will focus more on well-being, and social and emotional learning. People today are filled with stress and anxiety. Education is a way to overcome these problems. Education will not just help people to survive, but to thrive as well.

Which areas of Dubai's education need the most focus from the government?
Early education needs the most focus. Looking at the numbers, we can see that many newcomers to Dubai are younger families. Parents are more aware today of the value of educating kids at an early age. New research emphasizes the importance of early learning, so this is where we need to invest; this is where the highest returns will come from.

The University of Birmingham and the Rochester Institute of Technology have recently opened campuses here. How important is it for Dubai to attract more international schools?
It is important. We need to increase the footprint of segments that have traditionally brought in tourists, but also need to look at other segments, like healthcare, education, and sports tourism. Higher education is different from schooling, because schooling is determined by the number of people physically living here. With higher education, you are not confined to people living in Dubai. Once people reach the age of higher education, they may go abroad. We see enrolment rates increasing more rapidly in higher education than in lower school education. Dubai has experienced growth in the number of international branch campuses, particularly in the past 15 years. This is largely because Dubai fills a gap in the market. The US, UK, and Australia are typical destinations for higher education, but may be out of reach for many young people. The Arab Youth Survey recently revealed that Dubai is considered as the destination of choice for higher education among Arab youth throughout the Middle East. If we add Dubai's vibrant economy and job landscape to the mix, it is easy to see why Dubai is becoming a more attractive choice for higher education.