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MBRSG Launches New Report on ‘The STEAM Dilemma’

The Mohammed bin Rashid School of Government (MBRSG) has released a report titled ‘The STEAM Dilemma,’ which was produced under the patronage of Her Excellency Sarah bint Yousef Al Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Sciences, today at the MBRSG headquarters in the Convention Tower of the Dubai World Trade Centre.

The new study focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) education in Dubai private schools. H.E. Al Amiri delivered a keynote speech at the launch ceremony and took part in a Q&A session. The ceremony was attended by MBRSG’s Executive President H.E. Dr Ali Sebaa Al Marri and a host of influential figures and decision makers from the relevant sectors.

Her Excellency Sarah Al Amiri praised the efforts made by MBRSG, which produced the insightful report that will help guide educational policies towards new horizons that address science and technology curricula in innovative ways. In her keynote speech, Her Excellency said: “Investing in the integration of science and technology and teaching their subjects in innovative ways for all age groups is a pressing need and meeting this need will serve as a catalyst for achieving the desired growth in the UAE. These fields are of great importance in our lives and focusing on developing these vital areas is essential to reach the UAE 2071 goals.”

She added: “The constantly evolving world requires us to invest in science and technology to keep up with its changes and ensure that we can effectively adapt to meet them. This applies especially to learning, as the changes in STEAM affects schools, universities, educational systems and the job market. Forecasting the future of the educational ecosystem and incorporating innovative methods of learning beyond the traditional will help us to meet these developments and will equip students with the skills to navigate the future. We need to deploy STEAM to overcome the challenges in the UAE and to build a comprehensive and flexible model that takes into account the advances of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and modern technology.”

Meanwhile, H.E. Dr Ali Sebaa Al Marri said: “Breakthroughs in Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, Big Data, and robotics, among others, are drastically transforming entire industries. These new realities have brought Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics education to the fore, establishing it as the go-to solution for countries preparing their students for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and its consequences on both education and the job market. Integrative curricula, particularly for STEAM subjects, greatly enhance the learning experience for students and connect classroom education with real-world issues.”

He continued, “We are happy to be launching the ‘STEAM Dilemma’ report today, where we explore insights gathered from a host of Dubai-based private schools to understand the challenges facing educators as they incorporate STEAM education into their curricula”. Co-author, Engy Shibl added that “By discussing these challenges and opportunities, we hope to lay the groundwork for exploring the necessary policy reforms that would enable schools to overcome resource and regulatory barriers to integrating STEAM education,”

The report explores STEAM adoption in private schools in Dubai, focusing primarily on the on-the-ground experiences of educators and discussing key challenges and opportunities. Notable challenges include difficulties with integrating curricula and translating them into lesson plans, and the trade-off between delivering on curricular objectives and targets and meeting the expectations of integrated STEAM.

Additionally, resource allocation proved to be a challenge, where, despite enthusiasm for STEAM, resources in some schools were spread thin and limited to only some grade levels and not others. Furthermore, the study revealed difficulties faced in incorporating technology, where tech integration was limited to e-versions of traditional teaching resources with very few examples of technology used for experiential learning opportunities. Finally, teacher capacity and workload proved to be a challenge for many educators who were making sincere attempts to deliver STEAM through innovative teaching methods.

On the other hand, the study pointed to a number of opportunities for STEAM Education in Dubai, such as the culture of interdisciplinary learning that schools have cultivated, where awareness of the importance of STEAM creates school cultures that value interdisciplinary and collaborative learning.

Another opportunity is the emphasis on project-based STEAM instruction, which emphasises 21stskills such as critical thinking, problem solving, communication, leadership, and media literacy. Co-author Lama Zakzak noted that “Conventional skills like memory, reading, and writing are on the decline while skills like analytical thinking, problem solving, technology design and programming are on the rise.”

Furthermore, there is the integration of robotics, where all of the schools visited in the study had employed robotics or Lego kits for teaching STEAM, as well as collaboration between schools that offers opportunities for schools to share practices and resources, and to experiment together. There are also opportunities in extracurricular STEAM activities, where teachers and students are able to explore and experiment with STEAM concepts, methods, and tools outside the curriculum, and then integrate successful teaching methods into the classroom.

The report produced a set of policy recommendations for integrating STEAM education, calling for encouraging curricular integration and developing a nation-wide interdisciplinary STEAM framework and guide, as well as for addressing issues of equity and resources by fostering resource sharing between schools, encouraging schools to offer scholarships and other financial aid through regulatory incentives.

The study went on to call for funding and provision of professional development for teachers; and encouraging a more holistic integration of technology. Co-author Sarah Shaer highlighted that “Governments must not only adapt to the changes technology imposes on the ways in which they provide services and engage with citizens, but also put in place the correct policy enablers to ensure that the 4IR and the rise of AI do not destabilize societies.

“The STEAM Dilemma” report utilised a qualitative methodology, where 10 School principals and 24 science and math teachers were interviewed in a total of 13 private schools in the city of Dubai. Interviews with principals interrogated topics ranging from school structure, resource and funding sources and allocation, to teacher recruitment, training and evaluation, in addition to strategies and policies regarding curricula, instruction, and parent engagement. Meanwhile, teacher interviews focused on school curricula, curricular development, classroom instruction and STEAM practices, extracurricular activities, student support, teacher support and training, and integration of online and digital resources and technology.

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