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Education and the People of Determination in the United Arab Emirates – Dubai

Who are People of Determination?

In appreciation of the strength and perseverance exhibited by those with disabilities, the United Arab Emirates describes them as People of Determination. In essence, it not only acknowledges them as individuals much like any other by using the term “people,” but it also highlights their “determination” despite the challenges they encounter every day.

The National Policy for Empowering People of Determination attributes the phrase, “the determined ones,” to persons with special needs, in order to recognize their achievements in a variety of fields and disciplines. It admits to the need for a nation to support and integrate every individual into society, offering aid to those with disability diagnoses and their families.

As President of UAE, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan states, the aim of the government is to explore and build upon all dimensions of humankind. Therefore, disabilities will no longer be viewed as issues for the individual alone, but as a problem for the entire society.


Assistance for Persons of Determination 

The National Policy states that one officer facilitating clients with disabilities must be present in government institutions, receiving the title of “Service Officer of the Determined Ones;” and the establishment of an advisory council to assist in the achievement of National Policy objectives. In addition, it provides assistance in six major areas of daily life; specifically public, culture and sports life, healthcare and rehabilitation, vocational training and employability, accessibility, social protection and family empowerment, and education. The lattermost was an attempt to increase the inclusion in mainstream academia, and to certify the involvement of qualified personnel in the academic progress of students of determination of all ages. The Policy offered home-schooling services for certain disabilities, treatment support services for particular learning difficulties, and training programs for teaching staff. Furthermore, employees are required to have at least a relevant Bachelor’s degree and a few years of experience in the discipline, considering the grave significance of the education sector to any community.


Special Education in Dubai

The ministry of education of the United Arab Emirates released a statement emphasizing the philosophy of inclusive education in the region, defining education as a social right which can be used to explore one’s complete potential. Quoting Federal Law 29/2006 Regarding the Rights of Individuals with Special Needs, Minister of Education Hameed Mohammed Al Qatamy stresses the importance of integration of children of determination into a common academic system, be it public or private institutions.

In 2013, the Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed launched the initiative entitled “My community…A city for everyone” in favor of efforts to spread awareness of and empower people of determination. The initiative issued directives calling for tangible progress, with regards to measures facilitating the productive growth of people with disabilities. He calls for immediate action, introducing legislative improvements and frameworks to aid the determined community.

As the Chairman of the Higher Committee for the Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in UAE, His Highness Sheikh Mansour Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum introduced the Dubai Disability Strategy in 2015. The purpose of the plan was to transform the city into a disability-friendly region by the year 2020. Under the focus of the initiative, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) presented the Dubai Inclusive Education Policy Framework in 2017. Being employed to lead the project, the KHDA presents five main sectors in focus are education, healthcare, employment, social protection, and universal accessibility.


The Dubai Inclusive Education Policy Framework

In an interview with Gulf News, Sheikh Mansour stressed the importance of improving educational resource accessibility, so as to provide equal academic facilities to students of determination. Suffice it to note, this directive has not been limited to school systems but universities and vocational learning as well.

In consequence, the 2017 publication of the Dubai Inclusive Education Policy Framework encourages education establishments across the city to employ various methods of assessment to gauge the level of Special Education Need and Disability (SEND) of every child. Assessments are to be performed upon entry into the academic institute or program. Furthermore, education providers are instructed to identify every student’s educational need. The results of the identification process are to be utilized to formulate a personalized education program, and to ensure relevant access to support plans and resources. Early Intervention Centers will work in tandem with academic organizations to enable effective transitioning into the mainstream education system.

Moreover, the Framework emphasizes that there should be no bias against people of determination upon admission or during their academic experience. Students experiencing SEND are to receive “sibling priority” for admission into any education institute or program. These students are to be braced, as they hone their talents and skills, and undergo personal progress through social interactions in age appropriate, common, learning environs. In addition, they will be provided relevant aids, including specified curriculum modifications, and accommodations and infrastructure. Students of determination must be provided, with equity, quality education and training in every type of academic structures all across Dubai.


Inclusion Centers in UAE

Reflecting the principle of acknowledgement and integration of those with special needs, cities have seen a rise of autism support and inclusion programs in UAE. To involve more academic organizations in striving to remove restrictions against SEND students, the KHDA published a guide, entitled “Directives and Guidelines for Inclusive Education” in 2019. As the education regulator of Dubai, the KHDA decided a new scheme for all private institutes to cater to students with special needs by 2020, with special attention on attempts at curbing additional fees for learning assistants for children.

Inclusion centers in Dubai are gaining momentum, with a gradual increase from statistics from 2016, depicting two federal, one local and twelve government centers. Such organizations in Dubai, including the likes of Small Steps Big Dreams, offer special education courses adapted to fit the need of each individual student exclusively. With the Policy Framework, related education providers and regulatory bodies are authorized to thoroughly observe growth and compliance of the students with SEND, helping to ensure they are equipped with quality education and integration with mainstream academia.


An Integrated Society

Sheikh Mansour acknowledged people of determination as an integral part of society, deserving rights similar to any other citizen of Dubai. Despite certain social obstacles persisting to date, the government seems to persevere still to accept and aid individuals with disabilities. Recognizing their potential, the government of UAE apparently attempts an empowerment of the determined ones. The moniker given them, itself, is a testament to their courage despite the obstacles they face. Perhaps that is the motivation behind disability-friendly initiatives. Perhaps it is the idea that, if they could advance in different disciplines in spite of challenges, in an encouraging atmosphere they could achieve incredible progress. Regardless, the people who had for so long been associated with deficits, both physical and psychological, in normative society are finally receiving the right kind of attention.

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