Moral Education is breaking new grounds in Dubai's education system to encourage empathetic, well-rounded, and civic-minded students for a more inclusive society.
In 2016, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, announced the innovative national initiative of Moral Education. From the start of the academic year in September 2017 onward, both private and public schools in the UAE have been teaching Moral Education as a subject. It covers four pillars of teaching and learning: character and morality, the individual and the community, civic studies, and cultural studies. While the implementation of Moral Education classes started in the first to ninth grade of the primary education system this year, it will be mandatory in all grades, from first to 12th, starting September 2018. Teachers are encouraged to use a variety of tools and techniques and can be creative when thinking about achieving the goals of the new subject.
When starting the program in first grade, different types of concepts are introduced to the students, such as fairness and affection, caring, tolerance, and resilience. Once students familiarize themselves with these ideas and their meanings, they start exploring the role of kinship and family, with a special emphasis on the role of diversification in society. Considering there is a great variety in nationalities living in Dubai, the idea of an inclusive society, in the broadest sense imaginable, is to be discovered by teachers and students. Civic studies zoom into UAE heritage, and cultural studies explores the journey of self-identification and positioning toward others.
The central idea that lies behind the program is enabling all students to become critical thinkers, and to look at the world through a moral spectrum. It should fully prepare students to enter the world, being aware of the multitude of issues that people encounter on a daily basis. Aiming at exploring an individual sense of morality, it explicitly does not impose any religious ideology. Since the core principles and values of the curriculum are universal, they are formulated with students of all nationalities, ethnicities, and backgrounds in mind. While one could say that religion itself consists of morals, ethics, and many subjects that are being discovered in the subject, religious studies teachers will not be involved in the subject.
Jumeira Baccalaureate School, whose motto is “know yourself, learn from others,” already follows an International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum that cultivates many so-called “learner profiles,” promoting open-mindedness, communication, reflection, empathy, and respect and overlaps with the new Moral Education curriculum. The school further encourages personal and emotional development by rewarding students who exemplify morality, and students are even quizzed weekly on the lessons taught in the Moral Education curriculum.
Building on international research that has been done in the US and the UK, trainers regularly fly in to observe the progress and make suggestions when necessary. Local and international experts are closely monitoring the implementation and will evaluate accordingly. According to the Dubai Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), which is responsible for the growth and quality of education in Dubai, the inspection of Moral Education focuses on three components: curriculum, teaching, and assessment and reporting to parents. This last component dives even further into the idea of an all-inclusive society in the sense that parents are very much welcomed to actively participate in the subject.
Moral Education has been received well nationwide and has been implemented in all primary and secondary schools in Dubai this year for the first time. This year marks the beginning of a beautiful journey that will prepare tomorrow’s society for the days to come. In the words of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai: ‘The future belongs to those who can imagine it, design it and execute it. It isn’t something you await, but rather create.”