UAE schools need to foster curiosity: UAE daily

ABU DHABI, 13th February, 2015 (WAM)–Can curiosity be taught? The question has vexed educators for centuries but most parents would say it misses the point because children are naturally curious. So the question to ask is how can that innate curiosity be encouraged and maintained rather than quashed by the education system? In the UAE, this is not a hypothetical question. As The National reported yesterday, inspiring the next generation’s sense of curiosity will be key to the success of the Dh4.1 billion innovation programme announced by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs.

“The scheme will begin by targeting students who are just starting school, aged five or six. It will continue to foster innovation right up to university level,” English language local daily, TheNational, said in its editorial on Friday.

However, natural curiosity does not sit well with the rote-learning education system that has long been in place in many schools in the region. The innovation initiative has to be seen within the context of the attempt to promote critical thinking. “This is the way forward as we contemplate our goal of becoming a smart economy that is less reliant on extractive industries. But nobody should underestimate the difficulty of changing from one mindset to the other, especially since most of the teachers not only come from a rote-learning background but have also been taught to teach that way,” it added.

So what can be done? The paper enquired, adding that “We need to ensure that children’s natural curiosity is fostered rather than discouraged at school. The way to achieve that is to have an educational system that engages their imagination, feeds the spirit of inquiry and encourages questions and debate. It must take into account the many different ways in which young minds learn.” The inclusion of robot laboratories seems an inspired move. Just a generation ago most of the world could not have imagined the internet and how it would change society. “Today’s young minds will come up with ideas that will transform tomorrow’s world. Bright Emiratis ought to have every chance to be the ones to imagine the next breakthrough. This initiative will help that process along,” it concluded.