The UAE has one of the most mature education markets in the region. According to the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Competitiveness Index Survey, the UAE ranked among the top 20 nations globally in 2017-18 in terms of the quality of its primary and higher education systems.
The education systems in the GCC are fairly young by global standards, but this has allowed them to be incredibly dynamic – often leapfrogging other markets with their ability to integrate the latest technologies and innovations into the classroom quickly and effectively.
As schools around the world continue to close to prevent the spread of Covid-19, nations in the GCC have a unique opportunity to set best-in class standards in e-learning. Countries such as the UAE are well positioned to demonstrate to the rest of the world how best to use pioneering EdTech solutions to ensure that teaching is not disrupted during the pandemic.
During last month’s GESS (Global Education Supplies Solution) trade show, 62 UK technology companies showcased the very latest in EdTech solutions – many of which are already being used across the GCC and could well be deployed more widely to support at home learning as schools remain closed.
Century Tech is one of the companies that is up and running in schools across the UAE including Jumeirah English Speaking School, Dubai College, Dubai International Academy, and Safa Community School.
This award-winning UK teaching and learning platform improves student outcomes and empowers educators to work smarter not harder. The online solution uses a pupil’s interaction with the technology to identify their knowledge, skills, gaps, pace of learning, and when information has passed from their short-term to long-term memory.
For the teacher, it provides real-time information that shows them how pupil are performing, who they need to focus their attention on, and who should be praised for commitment. The platform, which can be accessed using any device, and most importantly, anywhere, provides a variety of interactive and learning functions for the core subjects of English, Math, and Science.
This platform could prove crucial in enabling teachers to better understand how individual children are reacting to e-learning and offer vital support as required.
Another UK EdTech solution that could come in useful at this time is Kinteract – a platform that provides fast feedback to teachers and parents on students’ progress. The app can also link to other learning and teaching solutions to provide data-driven insights that can enable teachers and parents alike to plan an intervention to get a pupil back on track if they are struggling in a particular area.
Kinteract is currently being used in 80 schools worldwide.
Coronavirus aside, there are bountiful opportunities in the GCC for EdTech companies. According to a report by Alpen Capital, the total number of students in the GCC education sector is projected to reach 15 million in 2020, from an estimated 12.6 million in 2015.
The region’s education sector is also highly profitable – a report by the Abu Dhabi Education Council showed that private schools in the emirate earned more than $815m in profits between 2014 and 2018. EdTech adoption could prove crucial to enabling schools in the region to set new global standards in education and make this growing sector even more attractive for international investors.
The UK is a world leader in the development of a number of education technologies. UK schools are already leading by example and have spent more than £1bn ($1.23bn) on digital-first learning tools in the last five years, while more than 70 per cent of UK students now use a tablet in class.
The GCC and UK have successfully worked together for a number of years to deliver several education projects in the region.
In the UAE, the UK’s Quality Assurance Agency is working closely with the Ministry of Education to provide strategic advisory support. The partnership will include a review of institutional licensure and programme accreditation, and the development of a new model for quality assurance in higher education and training according to UK standards.
A number of UK universities have set up campuses in the country including Heriot Watt University, Manchester Business School and Middlesex University. Additionally, the University of Birmingham was the first global top 100 university and the first Russell Group university to open a campus in Dubai.
In Saudi Arabia, University College London is working with Umm Al Qura University (UQU) in Mecca to redevelop its Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery programmes. UK experts in assessment, curriculum design, faculty development and quality assurance are working with UQU to construct an integrated undergraduate education programme which is relevant to the unique and diverse healthcare needs of Mecca and the local region.
Such projects provide just a few examples of how the UK and the GCC are working closely together to support governments’ visions to deliver best-in-class education for their citizens.
Moreover, they demonstrate the region’s commitment to taking full advantage of the unique opportunities that exist in this region to go above and beyond established practices to become leading examples of how to transform education systems in the digital age.
And, the Covid-19 pandemic is further evidence that integrating technology into schools is absolutely essential in this modern age.
Simon Penney is Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for the Middle East