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 sharing 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.