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Ras Al Khaimah Case Study included in UNESCO Doha’s GCC Report on "Momentum for Education 2030"

Al Qasimi Foundation
January 04, 2017

In October the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research hosted an event to share findings from a collaborative case study with UNESCO Doha on Ras Al Khaimah’s education system. The case study was one of six included in UNESCO Doha’s broader research initiative, Momentum for Education 2030 in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which was funded by the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF).

“[The research project] was aimed at exploring the current status and key issues of the GCC states’ education systems and providing recommendations to improve learning outcomes,” said Dr. Faryal Khan, Program Specialist for Education at UNESCO Doha, during the event. “We were pleased to collaborate with the Al Qasimi Foundation in conducting the Ras Al Khaimah case study.”

Although the case study is not necessarily representative of the entire United Arab Emirates (UAE), Ras Al Khaimah has one of the largest percentages of government schools in the country and as such there is still much that can be learned. The case study drew on primary data on the Ras Al Khaimah education system as well as from the Al Qasimi Foundation’s existing research on education in the emirate.

“This case study will provide policymakers in Ras Al Khaimah and the wider UAE with a good base from which to examine the challenges and possibilities for the local education sector,” said Dr. Natasha Ridge, Executive Director of the Al Qasimi Foundation.

The primary purpose of the case study was to contribute to better empirical evidence and knowledge about the quality of education outcomes in Ras Al Khaimah. A secondary goal was to help inform Education 2030, the United Nation’s action framework for achieving quality and inclusive education, one of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Many GCC countries have invested heavily in their education systems, including the UAE. However, regional trends in national and international assessments, such as the PISA and TIMSS, show widening achievement gaps according to socio-economic status and relatively large gender gaps, with girls’ outperforming boys across every subject. Such regional trends will need to be addressed and reversed if the aspirations outlined in the SDGs are to be realized.

The Ras Al Khaimah case study is based on qualitative data collected from focus groups, site visits and interviews at several government schools, as well as document analysis related to the emirate’s education sector.

“The focus group discussions enabled us to hear from the administrative officers, public school principals, and teachers about their views on important aspects of Ras Al Khaimah education, such as curricula, learning outcomes, and assessment,” said Ms. Maricel Fernandez-Carag, Education Program Assistant at UNESCO Doha. “It was very helpful in terms of gaining insights on the key challenges for education [in the emirate] and in identifying the key priorities for setting a future education agenda.”

Some of the challenges and opportunities that emerged as themes during data collection included promoting the academic success of male Emirati students, improving graduates’ English language proficiencies, effectively using technology in classrooms, and incorporating research into successful education policies and decisions.

In addition, the final Ras Al Khaimah case study report highlights a number of initiatives already underway to enhance the quality of the UAE’s education system at the federal level—many tied to UAE Vision 2021—and acknowledges these efforts will have an impact on education in the emirate.

Beyond sharing case study conclusions, UNESCO Doha’s final report put forward a number of tangible recommendations for policymakers to consider as they work toward improving learning outcomes in Ras Al Khaimah. These include strengthening communication and collaboration within the education system, exploring ways to attract Emirati males to the teaching profession, continuing to engage and support families with their children’s education, and encouraging a more competitive school culture that would help students learn from failure.

“This case sheds light on the present state and future direction of education in Ras Al Khaimah, identifying areas of need and suggesting practical ways to fulfil them in order to promote quality education,” said Dr. Soohyun Jeon, Research Director at the Al Qasimi Foundation. “We hope the findings help contribute to the future progress of education in Ras Al Khaimah and the UAE.”