Dr. Aref Al-Shaikh Explores the Evolution of the History of Education in Abu Dhabi

In the presence of H.E. Prof. Jamal Sanad Al-Suwaidi, Director General of the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR), the Center organized ‘A Book in an Hour’, which is part of the Emirates Lecture Series. The lecture, titled ‘An Overview of the History of Education in Abu Dhabi’, was delivered by the author, Dr. Aref Al-Shaikh, Family Counsellor at Dubai Courts, and was held in the UAE Federation Library, at the ECSSR office complex in Abu Dhabi.

During the lecture, which was attended by a group of experts, intellectuals and media professionals, Dr. Aref Al-Shaikh expressed his gratitude to H.E. Prof. Jamal Sanad Al-Suwaidi, commending the ECSSR’s vital contributions in various fields. He emphasized that the Center plays an important role in documenting and classifying historical events through a robust approach.

Turning to his book, An Overview of the History of Education in Abu Dhabi, Dr. Aref Al-Shaikh explained that it focuses on three major phases of the evolution of education in the emirate. Firstly, the Katateeb phase, which characterized early education in all Arab and Muslim countries when education was strictly limited to learning the Quran by heart, which also involved reading and writing. The most renowned of the Katateeb in Abu Dhabi was a Kuttab named Darwish bin Karam. The second educational phase came with the introduction of semi-formal schools, which were more advanced than the Katateeb system, but not at the level of formal education, focusing more on teaching students the Quran and interpretations of it. The first semi-formal school in Abu Dhabi was Bin Otaiba school, which was likely opened around 1907. This type of school was established thanks to individual efforts, with the support of pearl traders. The third phase of education came with the establishment of Al-Falahia school in Abu Dhabi in 1958 and Al-Nahyania school in Al Ain in 1959, which reflected the wishes of the then Ruler of the Eastern Region, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (may God rest his soul in peace). Dr. Aref Al-Shaikh told how the first Emirati teacher in Al-Nahyania school was the late Mohamed Rashed Al-Tamimi (may God rest his soul in peace). Later on, during the 1960s, other schools were founded and this was accompanied by an influx of educational professionals from Bahrain and Jordan in order to contribute to the development of the education system.

Dr. Aref Al-Shaikh pointed out that education in Abu Dhabi took a quantum leap when the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (may God rest his soul in peace) became Ruler of Abu Dhabi. He established various departments, including a Knowledge Department to address issues relevant to education. In 1970, the first ministerial entity for education saw the appointment of a Minister of Education, the late Mohamed Khalifa Al-Kendi (may God rest his soul in peace). During that period, several schools were founded in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and beyond. The curricula adopted came from a variety of countries, including Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq and Egypt. The first high school examination in Abu Dhabi took place in 1970, and followed the Kuwaiti curricula, under the supervision of the Abu Dhabi government. Following the establishment of the UAE Federation, education in Abu Dhabi continued to take major steps forward.

Dr. Aref Al-Shaikh concluded his lecture by stating that the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (may God rest his soul in peace), placed great importance on promoting schools and education in Abu Dhabi. The late Sheikh Zayed exerted significant efforts to support schools in the Northern Emirates before the establishment of the UAE by recruiting foreign teachers and providing financial support.