“The goal of education is the advancement of knowledge and the dissemination of truth.” – John Fitzgerald Kennedy
From bucolic schools with least infrastructure to technologically-advanced classrooms fitted with smart boards, the education system in the UAE has come a long way. The education system in the UAE has evolved over the past 60 years. Back in 1950’s, there were a handful of schools in the Emirates and all of them were exclusively for the boys. Then in 1960’s when oil was discovered, the government decided to expand their education system by building more schools in UAE. But those could be seen in the urban areas only and most of the students would unwillingly go to foreign countries to pursue higher education.
With the gradual increase in the population and the development of the country, the government understood the importance of education and started investing in the education sector. The citizens of the UAE now need not to travel overseas for higher education as the government has provided the students with the plethora of top universities in the UAE.
With straggling school and university campuses, and an increased focus on technology and students wellbeing, the growth in the education sector has matched the rapid pace of development of the UAE.
The Ministry of Education in the UAE indicates that the region has gone through four iterations of educational development-
1. The Mutawa and the Katateeb-
The Mutawa was usually the person who taught the young boys and girls how to read the holy Qur’an, the Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his biography. He was usually considered to be the wisest person in the village and usually taught in his home.
Opulent communities would mostly organize a Katateeb- a physical location, or a schools, were the young men were taught the Holy Qur’an, Islamic teachings, reading and writing.
2. Educational Circles-
An educational circle is where a teacher would deliver a lecture to a group of students, thus resembling a traditional teacher/student model. These circles were conducted by religious scholars with great knowledge of Islam, languages and other subjects, in response to the direct invitation from wealthy patrons and Sheikh of the area.
3. Semi-Organized Education-
This period came into existence as a result of a religious movement known as “Alyaqadha Alarabiya”, called for an Arabic awakening and inviting the people to return to the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah. The main idea was to uphold the Arabic language and abandoning the things which were inconsistent with Islamic beliefs, as a result of which people started embracing the teachings of the Holy Qur’an. Therefore, schools were opened throughout the Arabian Peninsula but the movement was eclipsed by the First World War in 1914. After the war, the emphasis returned to the development of the educational institutions primarily in the large cities of the region.
4. Modern Education-
The iterations explained were the stepping-stones to the current educational system. The first modern school was founded in Sharjah in 1930, Alqasimiah School, which adopted the Kuwaiti curriculum. In 1954, the first female school was opened under the same name, which was later renamed to Fatima A’zahra’a.
After the United Arab Emirates was formed, education was locally and education became free for all the Emiratis. Primary education became mandatory for all Emirati boys and girls.
The United Arab Emirates adopted the concept of free education at an early stage. Thus education is widely viewed as a means by which the future generations can guide and transform the society.