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Emotional Intelligence in the UAE 

Raising Awareness of Social Learning

Author: Clair Watson

The UAE education system is working hard to raise standards of teaching and learning in both private and government early years setting. This is all very positive and the early years are finally being recognized as a priority in paving the way for a child’s future learning.

Raising academic standards and making settings a more play based environment is all great but, what about the children’s emotional intelligence? After all being emotionally intelligent is more important than having a high IQ and will ultimately get you and your child further in life. So what is being done about giving practitioners and children emotional intelligent skills?

Local Workshops

In Dubai and Abu Dhabi, UAE workshops are on offer to early years practitioners through Early Years Educational Services there’s a wide range of courses on offer including ‘circle time’. Circle time to most of these early years practitioners here is sitting on the carpet in a circle ‘revising’ colors, shapes, number and letters. So when I turn up to run the ‘Circle time’ workshop they get something very different from what they expected!

Training Workshop Format

After the initial welcome I refer to the feeling barometer set up on the wall, simple laminated faces with different expressions. I then ask them all to draw a picture of themselves and stick it under how they feel right now.

Amazingly they almost all stick themselves under the happy face! Happy they’re at school on their day off or just being polite! There is usually one or two brave sole that choose one of the other expressions, inevitably admitting they’re a bit confused in why they are doing such an activity!

We continue and they are introduced to Daniel Goleman's ideas. The ‘guru’ of EI who believes there are four key skills;

  • being self aware,
  • being able to self manage,
  • having social awareness and
  • being able to manage relationships.

Practitioners need to be aware of the power of their emotions and how it impacts on their life and their work with young children. They also need to be aware how a child’s own individual emotions impacts on their personal, social and emotional development.

It has been proved that the level of children’s EQ skills has a huge impact on their later well-being and academic achievement. This has been reiterated by Helen Maffini in her book 'Developing Children’s Emotional Intelligence’.

Personal, Social and Emotional Development

The Early Years Foundation Stage of England and Wales incorporates Personal, Social and Emotional development as part of their framework. It’s often referred to as the hidden curriculum and is therefore often forgotten about.

I like to refer to them as the building blocks for life in my UAE training. Making these links and getting practitioners to think about what they are currently doing in their classrooms create discussion and an opportunity to share ideas and activities of how to support PSE.

By providing workshops focusing on the importance and awareness of young children PSE development and emotional intelligence is beginning to filter into some school and nursery settings in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Enhancing EQ in Abu Dhabi, UAE Schools

One of the primary schools in Abu Dhabi supports their FS2 children’s PSE is through structured circle time sessions. Structures circle time session enable the practitioner to focus on key emotions though stories and puppets. This provides great opportunity for children to connect and empathize with a puppet or story. It also provides the children strategies of how to deal with situations.

Some nursery settings have started incorporating their self registration boards with feelings. This proved to work well in one particular school where and FS1 child traveled to and from school on the bus. A usually very happy child started adding a sad face to his name each morning. The practitioner monitored this and later spoke to the child who told her that his favorite grandma had died and he was feeling sad.

Without the feeling barometer the practitioner would have been unaware of the child’s sadness as his general demeanor didn’t reflect his hidden feeling. She was then able to work with the child and giving him strategies and allowing him time to be sad and upset.

Children in other settings in the UAE have been encouraged to look at photographs of situations and read people’s feelings. Discussing why they may feel that way and what we could do to help them. Older children have been encouraged to make links to their own experiences and how specific feelings made them feel and how they managed those feelings.

Expressing Feelings and Emotions

Children need to be encouraged to not only to show their emotions and feelings but also be able to manage these feeling in order to be emotionally balanced.

Too many children and then later in their adult lives hide their emotions and don’t have the skills to be able to have stable relationship. They are unaware of how they come across to others and consequently are confused with certain reactions they get.

Adults working with young children can make a difference to their later lives by being tuned in, firstly to their own emotions and then the children. We are the role models of the future generations.

And finally at the end of the workshop I refer back to the feeling barometer and ask staff to re assess themselves. Now there’s a mixture of feelings and people admit they are angry, happy, thoughtful, tired or inspired to make a difference! Make a difference to the futures of young minds! Clair Watson is a early years consultant and trainer working in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). She runs regular training for preschool teachers in all areas of the curriculum.

EQ in the UAE

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