Schools urged to focus on students’ well-being
Dubai’s education regulator says academics is no longer sole criteria for parents.
Parents are increasingly choosing schools on the “well-being movement” rather than academics alone, the chief of Dubai’s education regulator said on Monday.
Dr Abdullah Al Karam, director-general of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), said schools, faced with stiffer competition nowadays, are also emphasising student well-being in admission advertisements.
His comments came on the sidelines of the What Works Future event for schools to share best practices.
During the event, held at Dubai Future Accelerators, the KHDA and the Education Development Trust (EDT) also released ‘The Future of Education’ report for schools in Dubai.
There has been growing emphasis on student well-being in the UAE, which includes elements such as emotional intelligence, social skills, mindfulness, moral education, positivity, happiness, and tolerance.
Encouraged by authorities, schools have started incorporating well-being into their ethos, practices and teaching. The movement is part of the National Agenda under the UAE Vision 2021 goals.
Going beyond the “well-being tagline” of schools, Dr Al Karam said, many parents and institutions, including schools, also want to see “empirical research” confirming the positive correlation between well-being and academic achievement.
In Dubai, he said, the results of a pilot phase of a project to assess student well-being of 70,000 students over five years will be announced in January 2018. The pilot will begin this year in October.
Dr Al Karam said schools today are increasingly presenting themselves as “a well-being school” in admission campaigns.
“And some of the schools who are advertising about that, they never had to advertise in their 30 or 40-year history. I think the competition that we have in Dubai — the strong private sector fuelled with capacity increase — is pushing the schools to be creative and innovative, above and beyond the curriculum and the exams. I think the kids get it. And I think the parents are just starting the journey of getting it,” he added.
“It’s very important that when we talk about well-being, we’re also talking about the teachers and the parents, who need to be part of this whole well-being movement because I think they need to see it and feel it first-hand.”
Steve Munby, CEO of EDT, said academics alone can no longer be the pivotal factor influencing the decision-making process of parents selecting schools.
“What the parents want for their children is a school where they can do the best academically, but also be happy and enjoy school and be prepared to be a citizen of the future. Parents are going to look for more than just academic outcomes in choosing a school. I think that more schools in Dubai can demonstrate both — not ‘either or’, but both — academic excellence and a rounded curriculum to have children enjoy school and prepare for the future. That’s where they want to send their children,” Munby added.
The Future of Education report investigated the practices of around half a dozen Dubai schools “offering a future-ready education”, which included placing student well-being at par — if not above — end-of-school results.