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

Student Success needs Parental Involvement even in Private American Schools in Dubai

This week, KDSL coordinated and presented an Education Parent Forum in Dubai focused on American curriculum schools. Parents of students in American curriculum schools had the chance to connect, ask their questions to a panel of experts, and learn about best practices. Parents had compiled insightful questions about how the US and IB curricula compare, how special needs were being addressed in American schools in Dubai, the readiness of Dubai graduates for US elite colleges and universities and finally, the introduction of the Common Core Curriculum in schools in Dubai.

The parent group had carefully constructed their questions to voice their concerns and asked about what else they could do for their children to help them succeed and be competitive with other students back in the US? Parents articulated concern about two key issues, university acceptance and the new curriculum in the US.


  1. Parents wondered about graduates from Dubai schools being admitted to good US colleges and universities.  Peter Davos explained that the American-curriculum students were not at an advantage to study in American universities for two major reasons. First, they have grown to have a false sense of entitlement, and second, they have a perception of global issues that is peppered with a privileged bias. The combination of these two attitudinal issues reflects a graduate who is simply not realistically ready for the competitive life of a top tier university in the US – and it shows in their applications!
  2. Parents were confused about the quality assurance of the American curriculum and what is considered “American?” The development and the introduction of the Common Core Standards were explained by the panel with an emphasis that schools in Dubai have no real measures that can stop them from calling their curriculum American. But for those schools who have adopted the Common Core, there is notable pressure on school teachers to reform their practice; and teachers are calling out for professional support from their school leadership. The panel was clear – the Common Core is new and teachers are struggling with making sure that they (i) understand and appreciate the goals of the Common Core and (ii) have the professional support to be able to implement it appropriately in their classrooms. So parents need to put pressure on school leadership to ensure the teachers have the professional development to do their jobs and not just put pressure on the teachers!

The panel was very clear about the responsibility of parents to work with the school to prepare their child for graduating and being ready for a good post-secondary school. Surprisingly, these parents seemed unmindful that they were already ahead of the norm in Dubai. The forum was held at a school at 10am. They already prioritized becoming more informed about their children’s educational opportunities over anything else that day.

Do these parents realize that they are already doing something for their children’s attainment just by showing real interest?

The effect of positive parental engagement promoting the importance of education for their children is critical on student attainment. In fact, there are studies that show that parental involvement has a bigger effect than schools in shaping student  achievement. It seemed that in the minds of these parents, they were just being parents. But in Dubai, where there is a marked lack of parental involvement  because of a popular belief that “the education of their children is the sole responsibility of schools,” these parents were being superstars!