The UAE's Education Influencers, 2017 launches its very first educational influencers for 2017. Through their hard-work and pioneering initiatives these individuals share one thing in common - they are all shaping and changing the UAE's education landscape for the better...
The UAE's Education Influencers, 2017
By C Hoppe
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Sarah Rogers 

As a leading voice in UAE early years’ education, Rogers has impacted the local pre-school industry like no other.

Through the establishment of her Early Years Educational Services (EYES) training company six years ago, and Quest Education in 2014, she has been responsible for improving the standard of UAE early years teaching. Her companies offer accredited UK qualifications to UAE teachers and remain consistent in their adherence to international best practice.  

To date, literally hundreds of primary teachers, support staff and early years’ teachers have progressed through her CPD focused companies.

How long have you worked in the UAE?
I came to the UAE in 1994 and have worked most of the time since then as an educator, apart from two short breaks to have my children. 

What made you choose the education sector?
In the UK, I trained first as an early years teacher and then as a primary school teacher so I have always worked in education. I chose it because I enjoyed working with young children, every day was different and they are so full of awe and wonder that teaching them is very rewarding. It was hard work but it was great to see them grow and develop and realise what they can achieve. I now get that same enjoyment working with adults, educating prospective teachers and teachers. They often need a lot of support to believe in themselves You need to listen to them, encourage them, give them choices and help them to be independent by giving them the knowledge and skills to do a good job. 

What do you think are the greatest challenges facing the industry in the UAE?
The UAE is a relatively new market educationally, and the regulations are developing to help to ensure a high-quality learning environment for every child. While this is a good thing, the challenge is to get this right and ensure that any standards are consistently and transparently communicated and applied. This is an opportunity to take the best practice from around the world and make it right for the culture and environment here.

However, we have to be realistic about how quickly schools can change and the help and support they need to do so.  

We have a vast amount of schools and nurseries that are at different stages on their journey to excellent and our challenge is to understand where they are now, the barriers they may have and how to support them on their journey.   

Another challenge is with individual teacher licensing and qualifications.  The challenges come when international qualifications, achieved in the UAE, are not recognised consistently or when they are poorly delivered resulting in a lack of quality. When this happens the whole sector suffers not just the individual who has had a bad experience. We need rigorous licensing in place to support teacher development. Again, the challenge is to make it open, transparent, consistent and to give educators good choices.

What are the key milestones in your career so far?
I have had many milestones in my career, each one opening my eyes to new opportunities and enabling me to meet interesting like-minded people. Obviously one of the key ones was moving to the UAE in 1994. I have learnt so much living and working here and I have meet so many great people in education who also want to grow and develop, both themselves and the education sector.

In 2008,  I decided to set up my own training company, Early Years Educational Services (EYES), to give early years educators the opportunity to gain UK qualifications and continue their professional development through short courses. I was greatly helped by all the people whom I knew in education here and who believed in what I was doing.

Another milestone was opening Quest Direct Professional Services to cater for the needs of primary school educators in 2014.  We had been so successful supporting early years settings to make changes that the demand from Primary schools for support, meant we opened our sister company Quest to fully support all aspect of primary school improvement.  

Other milestones include working overseas with other educational settings and just recently, in November 2016, setting up an Association of Early Years Educators in Kazakhstan, to spread the word there about the importance of early education.

What do you think is your greatest achievement, in education, to date - and why?
My biggest achievements to date has been helping hundreds of school and nurseries in the UAE and abroad, to make a positive difference to the educational experiences that they offer to children and their families, to see them become aware of what they should be doing and how they can do it.

We have worked in partnership with thousands of educators to inspire them to provide strong educational foundations for all children and I am so proud when I hear about the positive differences they have made with our support.  I have watched individuals come to understand what they can do to make a difference as they have grown both professionally and personally. 

To support this I set up the first CACHE (Council for Awards in Childcare, Health and Education) overseas centre in the UAE, to provide high quality UK qualifications here as a time when no-one else offered them. I had to work very hard with all stakeholders: individuals, managers and owners of nurseries and schools, and Government bodies to get them to understand the importance of a qualified workforce. I am proud to have been part of raising the awareness of the importance of good early years education in the UAE.

Throughout this, I have stayed independent, allowing me to make decisions about what we do, for the best educational reasons and not to compromise on my values.  I don’t often stop and think about what we have achieved as there still seems so much still to do, but there are times, like when EYES won the MasterCard Small Business of the Year in 2015, when you think, hey maybe we have achieved something good here.

Name three things which get you up and motivate you each day?
Simple things: the feedback from a teacher who has made a positive change in her classroom and seen the benefits to the children, and now her colleague are making changes too; the achievement of one of our students, who has completed a qualification, never believing they would, and has gone on to change their life and support others; the opportunity to meet other like-minded people, at all levels of education and in different parts of the education community,  who also believe in the value of early years education with whom I can work in partnership to make a difference.

What would you still like to achieve in your professional life?
I have started my Doctorate, 22 years after finishing my Masters, so this is a personal and professional goal.  Through the research for my dissertation, I aim to spread the word about what great early year practice looks like in the UAE and how it can be achieved by every setting. 

I know there are many schools and nurseries that offer effective early years environments but I still see many settings and parents that don’t understand what great education looks like for our youngest children and what a difference it makes to the whole child, now and in the future. I want to show everyone, whatever their background, why their child deserves the best start to life, how it effects outcomes and how it can be achieved. 

What is your advice for others hoping to emulate your success?
Expect hard work, long hours, set-backs and disappointments but always be professional and polite. Surround yourself by like-minded people, focus on the positive, on making a difference and on building up long-term relationships. Do it because you believe in the right of every child to great education and the need to offer high quality, informative relevant and thought provoking training to support educators.  

There are no short cuts; never compromise on quality and what you believe in. Give your time and advice as freely as you can, and understand that everyone is unique and needs different things. Credibility, integrity and honesty are important, people remember. . I would say stay true to who you are, treat others with respect, choose your team carefully and value them.  Keep on learning, you have as much to learn from other as they have to learn from you.

What is the most enjoyable aspect of working in education?
No two days are the same and the enjoyment of meeting and getting to know new people who are just as passionate as I am about making a difference is what I thrive on. Helping people believe in themselves, and seeing them go on to make a difference to the children they work with, is also hugely enjoyable. We say that our learners become part of the EYES and Quest family and when they keep in touch with us for many years, or send another colleague along for us to inspire, then that makes us all smile. 

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