(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Education may evolve drastically in the digital era but humans shall remain at the core of the industry, mainly to keep ethics and values intact in the changing world, a top UAE official told an education conference in the Capital.
Hussain Ebrahim Al Hammadi, Minister of Education, said "change is inevitable" as the world moves from an industrial era to an age of technology.
"But as we transform into the technological era, we need to focus on the human part. Ethics and values are very important to protect the civil society from the misuse of information technology," Al Hammadi said in his keynote speech at the education technology conference BETT, which kicked off in Abu Dhabi on Monday.
BETT Middle East 2019 is being held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, carrying the theme "Building a Successful Change Culture to Meet the Evolving Needs of 21st-Century Citizens".
The conference features two days of collaboration and discussions between educators and technologists, as they seek to find new ways of providing students with future-ready skillsets.
Al Hammadi said: "Technology and artificial intelligence (AI) is the way forward. We must introduce the technological changes in schools.
"The future is about thinking smart and learning. The future is about compassion and creativity, and teachers must be right on the top to provide students with the relevant skills in the digital era."
And in an effort to promote ethics among UAE students in this age of technology, the minister said the government introduced moral education classes in all schools.
Instilling the values of tolerance, nurturing the community spirit, and developing compassion in pupils are part of country's education priorities - mainly because the availability of huge data and information today may pose dangers if they are not used wisely and ethically.
Al Hammadi said the UAE is committed to providing pupils with the knowledge and skills they need for the 21st century and beyond. Sharing the same sentiment, British Consul-General to Dubai and Northern Emirates Andrew Jackson said areas of new technology and AI are "really at the heart of where the world is heading".
"The UAE and the UK are working together in the integration of technology in all fields and in promoting future skills among students," said Jackson.
'No, robots can never replace teachers'
In an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times, Anthony Salcito, vice-president for worldwide education at Microsoft, said the role of teachers is "very important" in the digital era, and governments need to recognise and value educators.
"The teaching profession is more heightened now than ever before. Educators should feel valued and respected for the amazing role they play in teaching pupils," said Salcito.
He said some teachers think that since technology is growing, their role in class may decrease as pupils can now learn from robots and digital tools - "which is not true".
"What we find is that as learning becomes far more diverse in terms of opportunities in and outside the classroom, the skills required are far more human. The workplace needs students with great creativity and the ability to collaborate and work with each other.
"We need leaders who are going to create entrepreneurship that will fuel the economy. These skills can only be acquired by innovative teaching," he said. The education and tech expert noted that at Microsoft, their goal is to empower young people to become active contributors to the development and prosperity of societies.
"Our work in the field of education is part of our ongoing efforts to skill up young people and help them achieve more - as innovators, business leaders, entrepreneurs and job creators," said Salcito.