Thanks to Peter Oates, International Sales Manager at Rising Stars, for the latest international blog post.
I spent last week in Dubai attending the Gulf Education Forum and Educational Supplies and Solutions show. Having visited last year, we decided to exhibit this year, supported by BESA and a government grant from UK Trade and Investment (UKTI). The show likes to think of itself as BETT in the Middle East; although it’s still much smaller, it has been growing every year since it started seven years ago, and this year again saw increased attendances.
Rising Stars had a stand in the ‘British Pavilion’ and we showcased many of our new products, in particular Switched on Computing, Rising Stars Assessment and Essential CPD. The show was officially opened by His Excellency Humaid Mohammed Al Qutami, Minister of Education of the United Arab Emirates, and various ministers and other dignitaries attended during the week, most notably His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and ruler of Dubai, under whose patronage the show is held.
Visitors to the show included educators, principals and teachers from government and private international schools across the Gulf region and beyond – there were several visitors from as far off as Nigeria. There were also academics, researchers, and buyers and sellers of educational products of all sorts. Private education is seen as an integral part of the overall education system in UAE and other Gulf states, and private schools are regulated, inspected and licensed by government bodies. I had useful and interesting meetings with the Director of the School Development Division responsible for private schools at the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC), and with the Director of Strategic Partnerships in the equivalent (though different) body in Dubai, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA). Both organisations deal with schools of many shapes and sizes, with 17 different national curricula offered throughout the Emirates. That’s not so surprising when you consider that only 20-25% of the population is Emirati, with the majority made up of expatriates from all corners of the globe.
KHDA runs a very successful programme of workshops for private schools to share good practice. Called ‘What Works?’, these are sessions run by schools that have been identified by their inspection reports as exemplifying good practice in a particular field or subject. KHDA invites the schools to devise and run sessions where they demonstrate what has worked for them in an effort to improve standards across the whole of the private sector. ADEC is also dedicated to school improvement in the private sector. The region is remarkable for devoting government funds and resources to supporting leadership and teacher professional development in private schools. ADEC is clearly an organisation that we should work with, judging by the slogan on a sign in their reception (apologies for the poor quality of the photo, but I was trying to be discreet).
Mark Cox of our Middle East representatives IPR also attended and made some school visits. Over the course of the three days between us we saw staff from upwards of 30 international schools and groups, with most interest being shown in computing, assessment and online CPD. There were some quiet periods, but the busiest day was the last. It started for me before the show opened with a session familiarising the sales team of one of our distributors, Knowledge Hub, with some of our key products. I then met a potential new distributor before going to a meeting with Microsoft’s head of education for the Middle East, Khalil Abdel Massih. Microsoft are heavily involved with a Smart Learning project at the UAE Ministry, and they are keen to introduce the Switched on Microsoft book of mini-projects to the Smart Learning team with a view to localising it. The day culminated in a presentation I gave to about 40 delegates on continuous professional development – the impact it has on pupil achievement, what makes for effective CPD, and why e-learning deserves to be considered as part of an overall strategy for CPD and school improvement. It seemed to be well received, and the chair of the presentation panel, Farouq Almeqdadi of the Emirates College for Advanced Education, even requested a copy of the slides, and my notes and references. Credit where it’s due though – the presentation was the one Andrea did on her trip to Malaysia and Hong Kong last December, with a few tweaks. A couple of evenings socialising with Mark and Neil Bailey, an old friend from CES Holdings (a large exporter of educational resources), made for at least a little relaxation; although the Guinness at McGettigan’s Bar is probably not brewed with Liffey water, it still slipped down nicely after a day in the exhibition hall.
And finally, just because it’s there, here’s a picture of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.