Creating an education system that encourages students to read is at the core of the education initiatives envisioned by His Highness Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, ruler of Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Sheikh Saud believes that the UAE must recognize the important role education plays in the economic development and growth of the country.
Empowering People with Knowledge
The Ras Al Khaimah Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research, a quasi-governmental organization founded in 2009, is at the forefront of the education reforms envisioned by Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi.
Calling education reform the empowering of the nation’s people with knowledge, Sheikh Saud has spearheaded an education initiative that begins with improving the quality of teaching through mentoring and monitoring teachers.
Working with the Ras Al Khaimah Education Zone, the Al Qasimi Foundation is also helping to access English language instructors in RAK schools. The goal of this research is to identify and address any gaps or deficiencies.
Investing in Education
To further education reforms, His Highness supports investing in education institutions, including private universities in Ras Al Khaimah such as the American University and the RAK Medical and Health Sciences University. The goal of this initiative is to give everyone in the emirate the opportunity to pursue an education.
In a nation where literacy is already near 100 percent, the education reforms demonstrate the commitment of the government to improve upon the education opportunities already available to residents. Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi referred to the Higher Colleges of Technology and its limited course offerings to illustrate the need for other colleges and universities to offer students a broader range of choices.
Focusing Attention on Reading
Teachers in RAK’s government schools report a lack of student interest in reading. At least one teacher attributed this to social activities such as cell phones and video games drawing students away from libraries.
Because the foundation considers strong reading skills essential to creating independent thinkers, reading-related programs are central to the proposed education reforms. His Highness is advocating a program to elevate reading scores not just for the benefit of his emirate and its students but also for the benefit of the entire country.
Partnering with the Private Sector
Education reform in Ras Al Khaimah includes private companies as well as traditional universities and academic institutions. An example was the RAK government venture with Core Education, a company from India, and Birla Institute of Technology. The venture has led to new courses for students in engineering, architecture and business. What’s more, Core Education has agreed to institute an MBA program in RAK.
Taking Education into the Future
Sheikh Saud has taken the first step toward education reform with the creation of a university council in RAK. The council will help education facilities plan and execute strategies to raise standards and improve education in the emirate. By working together, institutions of education and quasi-government agencies such as the Al Qasimi Foundation hope to establish minimum standards for education and innovative opportunities for students.