Early Years Education in Dubai


Last week, KHDA hosted What Works Early Years at Emirates Aviation University in Dubai International Academic City. The event was a shared professional learning experience for educators, school leaders, policymakers and educational officials in Dubai focused on early years education (EYE). The pockets of excellence in teaching and learning practice found in various classrooms in Dubai private schools left their unassuming daily realities and were highlighted at this event alongside international experts.

It is always a genuine professional pleasure to witness teachers who are passionate about their practice, who reflect on the research and who innovate for the benefit of student learning and success. Given that this is an on-going event where the knowledge shaIMG_2952ring has become a norm, there are now high expectations of What Works. But, this particular event left an impression that struck a chord with me for two reasons. First, that parents and children in Dubai have great opportunities for early education unique to the region. Second, that parental involvement is critical because successful early childhood education requires guidance for parents.

Across Dubai schools, children enrolled in early years education make up nearly 30% of the student population making this particular emirate exceptional in the region. There is no shortage of evidence that investing in early years education is one of the best development strategies for long-term impact. Studies have shown time and again that early years development shapes the outcome of lives of children and of the economy of a country. In fact, according to the World Bank, investing in early childhood education has the greatest return on investment that investing in education at any other stage in life.


Reports from the World Bank reporting that when developed and developing countries add one additional dollar in high quality preschool programs, the ROI is anywhere between US$6 and US$17! Maybe this is why 50% of Chinese parents now want to make preschool mandatory.

Notwithstanding this accepted reality by policymakers globally, the fact remains that investment in early childhood in MENA is among the lowest in the world placing children at a disadvantage from the start.

As various parents have read about about the What Works Early Years event, they have been asking me, where can we learn more? How can we guide our children better? How can we make better decisions for their development? … how can we do more for our children? After all, all parents want the best for their children.

These are important questions in a time when a recent report released by the KHDA indicate a high reliance on nannies. A trend attracting more and more attention raising questions about social, emotional, and academic readiness of these infants for school. We need greater strategic discussions and open education forums for parents in Dubai where early years education is being given the attention it deserves.










What can you expect from EduEval in 2016?

EduEval has evolved over the years since its inception in 2010. We have enjoyed working closely with governments, private school operators, NGOs and corporate partners to help support evidence-informed decision making in the education sector. We are excited that we have been able to grow in the MENA region. Our growth is a recognition that there is a need for high quality consulting for all stakeholders who want better education for a knowledge-based society.

As we have grown, we do need to make sure that we continue to meet the needs of the community that engages with us. So we have made a few changes and we are working on a few exciting internal projects to share with you.
So what can you expect from us in 2016? 
  1. We will be changing our name from EduEval Educational Consultancy to EduEval! This represents our organic growth as we have built several verticals where we will continue to promote the same level of excellence in evidence-informed decision making on a broader scale.
  2. We are working on a School Choice Guide for parents in Dubai. We have been approached by several parents and concerned stakeholders over the years. Parents who need help in understanding how to make the best decision for their child when it comes to choosing a private school in Dubai. This guide will be available soon – so keep your eyes on us.
  3. We will be publishing more on understanding the practical link between assessment for learning, the role of technology and promoting better teaching and learning. So follow us on twitter and you will notice more activity sharing relevant information about education.
  4. We will be directly engaging with communities to promote our new initiative: Industry Connect. This is a great series of programs that are being developed with corporate partners and schools to promote a greater link between the theoretical learning in schools and real-wold applications.
  5. We will continue our commitment to excellence by relying on assessment, monitoring, evaluation and research to make informed decisions that promote the best practices in education in the MENA region.
Thank you for all of your support over the years of our infancy. We appreciate all of our followers, our partners, our clients. We also appreciate the time from the students, parents, teachers, school leaders, and high level bureaucrats who have given us their trust and engaged with EduEval.
We have received many accolades and statements of gratitude from our stakeholders. Each of these positive reflections have meant a great deal to all of the professionals who have worked tirelessly to ensure a high quality service since we started this company.

From the EduEval family, we wish you a wonderful new year and lets make 2016 one where we can focus on cultivating motivated confident happy young independent 21st century learners.

Happy new year!

Sonia Ben Jaafar, PhD
Managing Director
EduEval Educational Consultancy

Reflecting on Ed-Tech at the Digital Education Show Middle East

The Digital Education Show Middle East has been taking place at the Dubai International Exhibition and Convention Centre this week. At the heart of the numerous exhibitors marketing their products and services is a conference program that boasts speakers such as Sugata Mitra and Ron Packard. Dr. Sugata is a 2013 TED Prize hole_in_the_wallwinner and professor of educational technology at Newcastle University (UK) well known for his educational research on the “Hole in the Wall” experiment promoting the notion of self-instruction and peer-peer knowledge building. Ron Packard is the CEO and Founder of K12 Inc., one of the largest education companies in the world with $1 billion revenue, who also shared his thoughts on the significance of technology in education.

As the event progressed and various experts, educationalists, and ed-tech leaders spoke about the trends and needs of ed-tech, it became obvious that the field is evolving from a product-based focus to a personalized learning focus. This might seem obvious to many educators, but was a shift for many educational decision makers from the region who talked about the costly mistakes of attending to infrastructure and hardware rather than ensuring responsive educational tools and content that directly respond to the professional and pedagogical needs of teachers and students.

At our overcrowded round table this week, we talked through the different opportunities for ed-tech to support the personalization of instruction using technology. For practical reasons we focused on mobile learning and learning analytics as illustrated in the figure below.



After insightful comments and questions from the classroom teachers, school leaders, developers, and government officials at the table, there were strong common messages that surfaced:

  1. The current integration of technology in the classroom lacks a holistic approach
  2. Teachers are struggling with the alignment of assessments given current instructional pathways facilitated by technology
  3. Teachers are struggling with balancing the personalization of instruction and learning with competing demands from stakeholders
  4. Software developers need to work more directly with educators to ensure their products are effective as measured by increased student engagement and learning
  5. The disparity between English and Arabic Ed-tech is widening because of the lack of high quality Arabic language ed-tech content for the teachers and students in the Middle East
  6. Parental engagement and support is critical to success because of the demands on the students to engage individually with the learning tools


0digitaleducationshowme2014webheader10002302In all of the discussions at the show, the idea of integrating technology into teaching and learning had less to do with the individual tools and more to do with the process of how the instruction would change to capitalize on those tools. It reflected the needs of students who are simply not excited about technology because it is not special to them because they are digital natives. As Sir Ken Robinson states:

I wasn’t very excited about electricity …. and our kids aren’t really that excited about a lot of the technology that excite adults, they simply take them for granted.

So as we move into this next generation of teaching and learning, with almost 70% of students in the region graduating feeling unprepared and over 60% of employers in the region telling us the students are not prepared for the workforce, how can we support the needs of the Middle East to ensure that Ed-tech supports today’s youth?iStock_000000239353Small_display

Evaluator Networks on the Rise in MENA


The EvaMENA final forum marks the close of the first chapter on a great story that still has a long way to go. Three years ago, the International Development and Research Center (IDRC) funded a project to promote evaluation capacity in the MENA region. The project is housed at the Environment and Sustainable Development Unit at the American University of Beirut. Three years ago, the only region with less than a handful of professional networks for evaluators was MENA. A small group of volunteers with big aspirations for the region wanted to ensure that MENA did not fall behind and started to cultivate an environment where knowledge sharing and creation in Arabic, English and French would promote the growth and development of a locally based evaluation culture.

Evaluators from Western, African & Asian countries will be accustomed to the benefits of organizations like AEA, EES, SLEvA & AfrEA where debates, tools, workshops, resources and job posts are shared with professional interest. For MENA-based evaluators, the EvalMENA network is a breath of fresh professional air.

There were a few driving forces behind the creation of EvalMENA. For starters, it was lonely to be an evaluator in MENA. You needed to wait a few time zones and ensure that you have fluency in a foreign language to access the documents, resources, and support that so many evaluators globally take for granted. In addition, once you had gained additional skills and were excited to take it back to your local community of inspiring evaluators, there is a language barrier! After all, most Arabs speak, read, write and work in Arabic when in an Arab country. Finally – as a global MENA evaluator, you also needed to be familiar with the prominent evaluation discourse to export local value to the larger international community of evaluators.

But this frustration is slowly dissipating as EvalMENA has managed to grow a MENA-wide network of strong evaluators who are multi-lingual and have been working in the field for many years. In addition to offering several workshops and cultivating a shared vision across several countries and contexts, the group has harnessed the energies and capacities of the MENA evaluators to create an online free course in Arabic for evaluators.


It took an impressive amount of work, coordination and dedication for دورةتعليميةباللغةالعربيةحولتقييمالتنمية to become a part of the introductory e-Learning programme on Development Evaluation offered by UNICEF and IOCE, under the EvalPartners. The program opens the door to ensuring capacity building for development evaluation is accessible to evaluators in the Arab world who are arabophone – opening the door to more opportunities for local evaluators as the demands and recognition for evaluation is growing in the region.

This collective of professionals has demonstrated the power of knowledge sharing and creation in real-time across barriers of language, time, ICT platforms, and cultures. The group also boasts the emergence of country-based evaluation groups (e.g., Jordan and Tunisia) that are being encouraged by the values and work of EvalMENA & friends.

ImageGiven that 2015 has been declared as the International Year of Evaluation and it is the year where the MDGs are moving tImageo SDGs , the EvalMENA group work seems like it was just in time! But this is only a start in advocating for evidence-based policy making in the MENA region where challenges of low projected economic growth is clashing with a growing unemployment rate (16.8M by 2015!). In a region where concerning illiteracy rates are predicted to rise with millions of displaced people because of political and environmental crises. The list of challenges is growing and the solutions need to be viable and scalable. Local evaluators will be critical to helping key decision makers find the best approaches to promote local development.