Building skills, not degrees, will set UAE students and education systems ahead in the knowledge economy
Visionary education theorist says focus on problem solving skills and creativity to boost UAE education. One of the world's foremost education policy makers has encouraged teachers and education officials to focus on building students skills and the ability to solve problems, rather than just focusing on basic knowledge to boost education in the region.
"Skills have become the single most important driver of the success of individuals and nations," said Andreas Schleicher, the deputy director for education and skills and special adviser on education policy to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). "The single most important finding from our analysis is in fact that the knowledge economy no longer pays you for what you know. Google knows everything these days. The knowledge economy pays you for what you can do with what you know."
Mr Schleicher oversees the administration of the test and is widely regarded as the foremost authority on improving education around the world. The PISA test results are widely seen as a measure of how a nation is likely to fare in the knowledge economy. As a result they have huge political significance and policy implications.
Mr Schleicher, who is also on the Global Advisory Board of the Varkey GEMS foundation, was speaking to over 200 teachers, and leaders of GEMS Education, as well as media and local officials. In a keynote speech in which he discussed the latest results for PISA ( Programme for International Student Assessment), Mr Schleicher offered concrete advice on the importance of quality learning and integrated teaching.
He highlighted significant opportunities for countries in the Middle East to raise education standards and prepare students for the knowledge economy. Dubai, which was the sole emirate in the UAE to take part in the test, showed marked improvement again this year, while highlighting that that much more still needs to be done to boost children's readiness.
"Students are quite good at reproducing what they have been taught, but as soon as we ask them to extrapolate from what they know, use and apply their knowledge creatively in novel situations - things they haven't seen before - they struggle," Mr Schleicher said about Middle East educational systems. In the UAE, he said, "Overall there is a huge potential for growth, for improvement given current investments in education."
"We need to put greater value on student's creative skills, the capacity to extrapolate. You can see it can be very easy to implement those kinds of policies in a very short time, according to our data from the PISA assessment," he said.
"Andreas Schleicher's inspiring talk emphasizes the challenges and opportunities schools face in preparing children for the future," said Margaret Atack, Group Director, Education at GEMS education. "What he highlights most is that interaction, partnership and sharing have a tremendous impact on improving educational outcomes. Today, more than ever, lifelong learning is not an option but a necessity of the times in which we live and it is this culture of expectation and aspiration that we strive to embed in our classrooms, in our schools and across our organisation."
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