Health & Education

Child Development

With the creation of the Federal Authority for Early Childhood Education, the Emirate seeks to focus on the development of the youngest children in the constantly changing environment of the 21st century.

Giving a boost to early childhood education is one of the priorities of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the UAE since May 2022 and ruler of Abu Dhabi. With the intention of improving the development of children in the 0-8 age group, he appointed Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi as minister of Education to fill the existing gaps in the sector and in 2022 created the Federal Authority for Early Childhood Education (FAECE), an entity specialized in early childhood education.

FAECE is in charge of designing and implementing comprehensive plans to monitor child development from birth to fourth grade. In this way, the government strengthens the monitoring of public and private daycare centers in the UAE, so that everything is in line with the fulfillment of the Vision 2030 education roadmap. “The UAE’s vision is to be among the top 10 countries with the best education, and Bloom Education is actively contributing to this plan,” said Nilay Ozral, CEO of Bloom Education, an educational institution that has managed market-leading US curricula in the UAE for more than 16,000 students.

English as a second language, access to high quality public and private centers, and the creation of a curriculum inspired by international frameworks are some of the key factors of the UAE’s early childhood education system in recent years. This curriculum is based on the British Early Years Foundation Stage and Montessori methods. It focuses on developing young children’s creativity, critical thinking, problem solving and communication skills.

Ensuring quality education is of utmost importance in Abu Dhabi; however, the education sector faces a challenge in recruiting local talent to educate future generations. Educational institutions are actively addressing this issue by collaborating with foreign universities to train and develop more local teachers. Recognizing that teachers are the country’s national security, efforts are underway to equip trainee teachers with the necessary skills to become local educators.

Over the past two decades, Abu Dhabi has made continuous efforts to enhance educational infrastructure, improve program quality, and provide effective teacher training. In 2006, the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) initiated a collaborative project with private operators to strengthen the curriculum, infrastructure, and personnel quality in selected public schools. This project specifically targeted six schools located in the Western Region. Additionally, ADEC introduced a pilot program in early childhood education, partnering with international educational contractors to manage 30 public preschool and primary schools, while working closely with school personnel to ensure optimal outcomes.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the significance of social and emotional education as a crucial skill for students to navigate life’s challenges. This emphasis on emotional and mental support has become an integral component of Abu Dhabi’s early childhood education system, leaving a significant legacy in its wake.

“Young people will see many ups and downs, job changes, and everything else that comes with them. The more schools can prepare students for those realities by developing coping skills and social-emotional learning strategies that help them navigate life, the more successful they will be,” said Shawn Lee Dilly, director general, of the Emirate National School.

In line with Vision 2030, preparing the youth for the workforce is a key objective. A motivating curriculum focused on goals plays a crucial role in achieving this. “Purpose has been brought forward more in the business sector and is viewed as an essential element in recruiting and retaining talent. It goes back to a more fundamental issue, the desire to have a fulfilling life. This concept is an area where schools have room to grow, and it is inherently becoming increasingly relevant in the business sector,” Dilly said. Still, while targets have been identified and several initiatives are underway, the work is not over for the emirate to seek new ways to improve early childhood development. Thus, the Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority announced in 2023 an investment of AED6.65 million (USD1.81 million) in research grants aimed at improving early childhood development in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi between now and 2023. These funds will be used by six universities to develop a study of projects that will demonstrate how to enhance early childhood development in Abu Dhabi.

Learning creativity and innovation are essential in the early school years; however, these years are also an important time to learn innately how to use digital tools at a time when the economy is evolving at great speed. “Technological changes and other economic influences have profound implications on how we work and live, so we must create an educational system that adequately meets that demand,” Dilly said.

The timeframes for adapting to the new changes brought about by artificial intelligence and automation are getting shorter and shorter, which is why Abu Dhabi’s authorities have an important focus on equipping schools with the best digital infrastructure available. This is how the Emirate seeks to ensure that its future citizens can be highly adaptable to new technologies.

“Combining innovative technologies and approaches is at the core of the Alef Education mission to provide students with advanced and unique learning experiences. Schools and universities undoubtedly have much to gain from utilizing innovative technologies to facilitate and improve student learning,” said Geoffrey Alphonso, of Alef Education, an Abu Dhabi-based company that offers a technology platform that uses artificial intelligence to provide students with individualized education.

“We recognize and laud the government’s commitment to driving innovation and technology in the education sector. The company is committed to investing in the development of data-driven and artificial intelligence-powered educational tools and resources to provide students with a more personalized and effective educational experience,” he added.

In conclusion, Abu Dhabi is actively advancing early childhood education with a strong commitment to Vision 2030. Through initiatives like FAECE, research scholarships, and technology integration with a focus on social-emotional learning, personalized educational experiences are being provided to prepare students for successful futures. With ongoing efforts and a dedication to quality, Abu Dhabi is paving the way for a brighter future for its young learners.