University Of Cambridge learner-centred education specialists host Abu Dhabi conference

Published March 15th, 2010 - 02:06 GMT



Abu Dhabi, UAE, 15 March 2010- Two of the UK’s leading educational organisations hosted a one-day conference at the Beach Rotana Hotel in Abu Dhabi today, under the patronage of the Abu Dhabi Educational Council (ADEC), on student-centred learning in the Emirate.


More than 300 school principals and heads of department attended the one-day interactive conference that explored the latest research into student-centred approaches to learning. This approach has been shown to improve learners’ overall progress and can lead to better performance in examinations.


The conference was hosted by University of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) and University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations (Cambridge ESOL) under the patronage of Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC).


His Excellency Dr Mugheer Al-Khaili, Director General of the Abu Dhabi Education Council, told delegates in his welcoming speech that the conference comes at an important stage of the educational developments in Abu Dhabi, where the educational sector is considered one of the Emirate’s national priorities. In line with the 2030 Plan of the Government of Abu Dhabi, issued in 2008, the Abu Dhabi Education Council has developed educational policies that define the principles, the vision and the objectives of the Emirate’s educational system. These policies aim to provide all students with the knowledge, skills and values necessary to pursue their education and to prepare them for future contributions to the national economy, and to enhance their global competitiveness. Moreover, this will help to preserve national identity, a sense of belonging and inherited culture, he added.


His Excellency emphasised that ADEC has elaborated its 10 year strategic plan to improve the quality of education in schools. The plan includes 6 main components: improve student performance to match global levels, provide access to education for all, offer excellent private learning opportunities, strengthen the sense of belonging and inherited culture, ensure success in the labour market, build institutional capabilities and engage all teachers in the educational process.  


The strategy also includes the implementation of the New School Model for all levels, due to start later this year. The New School Model focuses on the student at the centre of the learning process. Furthermore, a permanent organisational structure was adopted for all schools. Also, the role of the school principal was developed to put him as the leader of the educational process inside schools, to develop teachers capabilities, activate comprehensive curricula in two languages, undertake continuous improvement, provide a stimulating learning environment, engage parents in the teaching process, implement policies relative to behaviour, failing and passing classes, in addition to the adoption of KPIs to improve schools. Hence, the environment within schools was designed and developed in order to stimulate and implement the components of the new model school such as learning communities in schools.  


Commenting ahead of the conference, Ann Puntis, Chief Executive Officer of University of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE), believes that schools in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have the opportunity to provide regional leadership when it comes to learner-centred education.


“A number of UAE’s schools have already embraced the concepts of learner-centred education and the benefits can be clearly seen,” she said.  “Our curriculum provides a head-start for students and its benefits are seen in examination results.  CIE’s learner-centred curriculum and assessment programmes lead to qualifications including Cambridge IGCSE,  that are recognised and accepted worldwide.”


Teachers who focus on to real-life communications skills hold the key to raising standards of English in the Emirates, according to University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations – who set and develop leading English language tests worldwide.


“By nature, learning English is an interactive activity and all of our tests have been specifically designed to reflect this,” explained Dr Mike Milanovic, Chief Executive of Cambridge ESOL. “Successful language learning must lead to knowing how to communicate in real-life situations and we’re seeing very encouraging school projects in the United Arab Emirates where teachers are designing classroom activities with this particular focus.”


The conference featured presentations by four world-leading educators. .After the presentations, the delegates participated in interactive workshops  which focused on the practical application of student-centred education in the classroom.


John MacBeath, Professor Emeritus at the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education, talked about the development of a genuinely student-centred classroom. Professor MacBeath is a world authority on school leadership and school self-evaluation and has acted in a consultancy role to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), UNESCO and ILO (International Labour Organisation), the Bertelsmann Foundation, the Prince's Trust, the European Commission, the Scottish Executive, the Swiss Federal Government, the Varkey Group in Dubai and the Hong Kong Education Department. He was a member of the UK Government Task Force on Standards from 1997-2001 and was awarded the OBE for services to education in 1997.


Dr Lynne Pierson, Head of Schools Development at ADEC explored the rationale behind ADEC’s strategy for a student-centred learning environment and how the strategy will be implemented across schools in Abu Dhabi – benefitting the students of today and tomorrow.


CIE and Cambridge ESOL international qualifications are very popular throughout the world and rapidly growing in the UAE. Ann Puntis, CIE Chief Executive and Dr Michael Milanovic, Cambridge ESOL Chief Executive,  provided an insight into the Cambridge approach to education, and the underlying principles that make it so successful.


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