How do you define excellence in the context of ECAE's five-year strategic plan (2013-18) to establish itself as an institution with a reputation for excellence?
We define excellence through various measures, one being program excellence, whereby we make sure our graduates are well placed in the market after they graduate. We also consider accreditation a key measure of excellence. ECAE is in excellent standing in terms of accreditation, both nationally and internationally. Another factor is ensuring we recruit faculty from high-quality universities. We initially had only 10 faculty members with PhDs, whereas now we have recruited an additional 13 over the past year. The other strategic goals of the college include research, partnerships with our stakeholders, and serving the community. We plan to continue improving the core of our business, focusing on operational effectiveness and efficiency. We want the college's operations to be transparent yet manageable, staying true to the needs of the market and the nation.
What were the objectives behind the recent launch of ECAE's Virtual Classroom program?
The aim of the Virtual Classroom program, which we developed in partnership with the University of Central Florida, was to give our students and teachers the opportunity to develop practical teaching abilities early on in their studies. We believe that you cannot just learn through theoretical learning; you need practical application. In the virtual classroom, our students have to manage a simulated classroom and learn to deal with different kinds of common problems, such as the sleeping student, the inattentive student, questions that may be posed by students, and so on. In this way, students can practice dealing with real classroom situations without having to actually deal with a classroom in reality. We are also currently working on building a science simulation lab where not only the students are simulated, but also the topics and experiments.
How do you encourage students to enter the teaching profession?
Traditionally, there has not been much interest on the part of Emiratis to pursue a career in education. Our job is to show them that teaching is the basis of all professions. Whether you want to become a lawyer, a doctor, or an engineer, it all starts with education. We try to show them that national prosperity is tied in with education, and developed countries in the world all exhibit high levels and standards of education. We have also diversified our education programs at ECAE to be fully in line with what our students want and expect. We have started seven new programs at the undergraduate level, namely: early childhood, educational counseling, physical education, special needs education, behavioral therapy, educational technology, arts and music, and science and math. We also started a Master's program in 2013 allowing graduates to have the chance to further specialize in their field. Additionally, the Abu Dhabi government has developed a new salary structure for teachers, which is a big incentive for those considering teaching as a career. Nevertheless, society needs to change its perception and approach to teaching. Education is important, and without it you cannot have success in any profession.