Israel, UAE agree to collaborate on education, exchange programs

"I was pleased to meet a true partner of the State of Israel," Education Minister Yoav Gallant said after meeting UAE Ambassador to Israel Mohammed Mahmoud Al-Khaja in Jerusalem.

Education Minister Yoav Gallant and UAE Ambassador to Israel Mohammed Mahmoud Al-Khaja meet in Jerusalem and agree on promoting educational programs between the countries, Sunday, May 30, 2021. (photo credit: EDUCATION MINISTRY)
Education Minister Yoav Gallant and UAE Ambassador to Israel Mohammed Mahmoud Al-Khaja meet in Jerusalem and agree on promoting educational programs between the countries, Sunday, May 30, 2021.
(photo credit: EDUCATION MINISTRY)
Israeli and Emirati universities will soon be launching student exchange programs, Education Minister Yoav Gallant and UAE Ambassador to Israel Mohammed Mahmoud Al-Khaja agreed on Sunday, during a meeting discussing education initiatives between the countries.
Held at Gallant's office in Jerusalem, the two discussed the common challenges that the education systems in Israel and UAE face, especially in the post-pandemic reality.
Welcoming the strengthening diplomatic ties between the countries, Gallant stressed the importance of educational initiatives in further establishing the historic relations.
Gallant and Al-Khaja agreed to establish a designated team that will focus on promoting initiatives and programs between educational institutions in both countries. Specifically, they agreed to launch programs for the exchange of students, teachers and academics between the countries.
Sunday's meeting marked the final step in approving and starting to implement exchange programs between the countries, after agreeing to promote this issue back in January.
"I was pleased to meet a true partner of the State of Israel," Gallant said after the meeting. "I thank [the Emirati ambassador] for the warm discussion and for his willingness to eagerly promote educational programs between our nations."  
During their meeting, Gallant expressed his appreciation to the policy carried out by UAE Prime Minister Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum regarding regional cooperation, noting that it has allowed for comprehensive trade, tourism and other forms of collaborations with the Jewish State, soon to include education as well.
Gallant further noted the UAE's continued support during the past few weeks, characterized by a complex security situation in Gaza and domestic riots between Israeli Arabs and Jews across the country.  
He invited his Emirati counterpart Hussein Ibrahim al-Hamadi for an official visit to Israel.
The meeting between Gallant and Ambassador Al-Khaja comes as the Israeli education system is being reexamined by many educators trying to adapt to the post-pandemic reality in Israel.
Prof. Yaacov Yablon, head of the Pinchos Churgin School of Education at Bar-Ilan University has indicated that there is “real potential for change,” pointing to the new challenges created by COVID-19 and to the integration of technology into Israeli classrooms that followed as a result.  
However, Yablon himself and other Israeli educators have also warned of the system reverting to older pedagogical patterns. Furthermore, a Comptroller's Report published earlier this month pointed to concerning trends of racism, discrimination and the lack of organizational flexibility still prevalent in the Israeli education system.
Perhaps, exposing Israeli students and educators to new models by launching more of these collaborative programs in the region could play a role in advancing both a more tolerable and innovative system.
Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman contributed to this report.