|30 January, 2019

UAE first nation to implement standardised testing for moral education

Implementation of MESA across schools nationwide this year

ABU DHABI: UAE Moral Education Program, an education initiative launched under the directive of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to promote and instil universal values, yesterday revealed that it will formally introduce the Moral Education Standardised Assessment (MESA). The announcement comes as senior members of the Program participate in the Middle East & Africa Association of Test Publishers (MEA-ATP) inaugural conference, titled "Education Technology in the Middle East and North Africa: Unlocking Student Potential" and held from 28th to 30th January at the Sofitel Hotel in Abu Dhabi.

Upon the implementation of MESA across schools nationwide this year, the UAE becomes the first country in the world to incorporate nationwide assessment within a moral education curriculum. The aims of MESA are to provide a proxy for assessing the impact of the Moral Education Program, in an independent and standardized manner that allows for comparability among schools and curriculums, and to test the students' knowledge, understanding and awareness of the importance of the qualities of character and values underpinning the moral education program and their application in a variety of situations.

Rather than measuring students’ individual performance, MESA aims to assess the overall impact of the curriculum’s effectiveness in teaching young people values and nurturing them to become moral and responsible individuals. Following a successful pilot in early 2018, the Moral Education Standardised Assessment, or MESA, will be implemented as a trial in around 70 schools in the UAE, involving 10,000 students from Grades 3,5,7, and 9.

In partnership with internationally-renowned testing organization, ACT Inc., who are known for their advanced standardized testing covering over two million high school students applying to higher education in the US, and their local implementation partner in the UAE, ConnecME Education, the UAE Moral Education Program has developed tailored assessments for UAE schools. The assessment has been designed to be adaptable to assessing moral education globally and will be implemented in the UAE by schools and administered to students as a computer-based-test that utilizes a combination of knowledge recall and situational judgement questions to assess the program’s overall effectiveness in teaching morals to students.

Mohammed Al Neaimi, Director of the Education Affairs Office at the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince’s Court, the body that oversees the development of the Moral Education Program, remarked ahead of the event: “We are proud to be the first country in the world to implement a standardized evaluation system for Moral Education. Delivering assessment on a par with the world’s top international standardized tests, such as PISA, TIMMS, and PIRLS, MESA uses the latest advancements in psychometric testing and analysis to measure students' understanding of the material and the curriculum’s effectiveness in changing their perceptions and behavior.”

Mr Al Neaimi added: “Quantifying the effectiveness of a curriculum of this kind presents challenges, of course, especially when attempting to measure the attainment of good character and values among students. By introducing MESA, UAE Moral Education Program has devised a solution which allows an understanding of the beneficial impact of the Program on young people.".

At the MEA-ATP education conference, Ahmed Fikri from the Office of Strategic Affairs for the Crown Prince’s Court, and Donna Matovinovic, Senior Vice President for Development in ACT, delivered a presentation entitled “Moral Education: Designing and Assessing for Change”. In the presentation, Mr Fikri emphasized a commitment to the continued evaluation of the curriculum: “MESA works as a policy tool, providing a wide spectrum of accurate data and objective information to monitor the program success.”

“Mixed with the feedback we receive from educators in the UAE responsible for taking the curriculum to students,”, he added, “we are able to use the results to adjust course, address emerging deviations and challenges, and devise, in consultation with all stakeholders, ways to improve and strengthen the delivery of Moral Education in schools.”.

Meanwhile, ACT Chief Commercial Officer, Suzana Delanghe, talked about the partnership: “We are thrilled to be supporting a holistic approach to student success,” she said. “We know that social and emotional learning skills are crucial to success in school and life and these skills can be taught and developed over time.Together with our partners, our teams will create a world-class assessment that measures student readiness, so teachers can more effectively foster the shared cultural values across UAE’s diverse communities.”

Following her presentation, Donna Matovinovic of ACT shared: “We’re excited to bring ACT’s decades-long development expertise to this process. Our subject matter experts worked collaboratively with CPC to ensure a valid exam for this important topic.”

The assessment will serve as one of the key tools used by the Education Affairs Office at the Crown Prince Court to monitor and assess the impact of the Moral Education Program. The office also conducts frequent school visits to oversee the curriculum implementation, a national survey covering all schools, and annual events with educators in the field, among others.

Earlier this month, UAE Moral Education launched the first chapter of its Principals’ Roundtable series, inviting school leadership to listen to examples of good practice in administering moral education to learners and to suggest to the Program recommendations on how to further develop the curriculum in schools.

The event, held over two days in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai, saw more than 300 principals representing schools from across the UAE attend the roundtable, and featured presentations delivered by senior members of the UAE Moral Education Program, as well as leading international authorities on moral and character education invited to the UAE for the event.

UAE Moral Education, which was first launched in 2016, aims to nurture young people with core moral values that are rooted in local culture yet acknowledge shared universal human values. Delivered as a holistic curriculum for all ages and nationalities, the program was fully rolled out in all public and private schools across the UAE, covering Grades 1 to 9 in September 2017 and extended to Grades 10 to 12 in September 2018. It follows that, as of current academic year, there are more than one million students receiving moral education in UAE schools.

Based around the four pillars of the Moral Education curriculum, the aim of the Program is to build character, instill ethical outlook, foster community and endear culture, using contexts that include the holistic environment of the school, the home, extended family and the wider community, locally and globally.

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About UAE Moral Education:

The Moral Education Program is a national school curriculum designed to realize the UAE’s vision of cultivating responsible, cultured and engaged citizens who are ready for the wider globalized world. It empowers the youth with a moral compass to aid them in making well-informed life decisions. The Program not only develops the skills of students, but also ensures that they understand their role as responsible members of communities.

The Moral Education Program is designed to nurture young people of all nationalities and ages living in the UAE with moral standards that are rooted in local culture while acknowledging common foundations of universal values that reflect the shared experiences of humanity.

About ACT:
ACT is a mission-driven, nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people achieve education and workplace success. Headquartered in Iowa City, Iowa, ACT is trusted as a leader in college and career readiness, providing high-quality assessments grounded in nearly 60 years of research. ACT offers a uniquely integrated set of solutions designed to provide personalized insights that help individuals succeed from elementary school through career.

© Press Release 2019

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