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We are a team of 253 people from more than 34 different nationalities. We share a passion for education and a commitment to ensure that each student in Dubai has access to high quality education. We focus on what’s working locally and internationally, and convene educators to share positive practice for the benefit of all schools and universities in Dubai.
Dr Abdulla Al Karam, Director General of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), is responsible for the complete continuum of private education in Dubai, spanning early childhood education, schools, and higher education and training institutes.
Dr Al Karam has the distinction of holding key positions across the United Arab Emirates and abroad. He is Chairman of the Dubai Future Council on Education, part of the Dubai Future Foundation. He is a board member of The Digital School, an initiative of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives. He is also a board member of Dubai Cares, and a member of the Higher Committee for Protection of the Rights of People with Disabilities in Dubai. Most recently, Dr Al Karam was appointed a member of the Emirati Human Resources Development Council in Dubai.
Dr Al Karam is a member of the UAE Education and Human Resources Council and a board member of UAE University.
Internationally, Dr Al Karam is a member of the International Positive Education Network (IPEN) advisory board and an Education Committee member of the Global Council for Happiness and Wellbeing.
Previously, Dr Al Karam held positions in various government sectors, including: Vice Chairman and Secretary General, Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award for Distinguished Academic Performance; Chairman of Dubai Government’s Human Resources Committee; Board Member of Dubai Knowledge Fund; Board Member of Dubai Sports Council; and member of the Board of Trustees of Dubai Future Foundation.
He was also a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Education 2010.
Prior to the formation of KHDA, Dr Al Karam held the post of CEO of Dubai Knowledge Village, which ushered in the International Branch Campus, with a remit to diversify the educational landscape in Dubai. Before that, Dr Al Karam headed the Research Unit at Dubai Internet City and began his career working as a software engineer in the United States and France. Dr Al Karam holds a PhD in computer engineering from the University of South Carolina.
Deputy Director General
Prior to joining KHDA, Dr Ahmad Al Sharif was Secretary General of Dubai Sports Council and Secretary General of Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Creative Sports Award.
Dr. Ahmad Al Sharif began his career as a teacher, eventually progressing to Assistant Undersecretary at the UAE Ministry of Education, a post he held from 2000-07.
Dr. Al Sharif has published 12 research papers in international periodicals, including four with an emphasis on sports in the UAE. He is a recipient of the Al Owais Creative Award for Studies and Scientific Innovation.
Dr. Ahmad has been a member of a number of organising committees for international conferences. He is the Middle East Vice President of the International Council for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, Sport, and Dance, and a Cont. President of International Sport for All Federation.
Dr. Ahmad has a PhD in sports management, as well as a diploma from the International Olympic Committee. He is a member of the Arabic Sports Council, and the technical committee at Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa Scientific Research.
His dream is to see the UAE flag flying at all international sports events. “I’m not being optimistic,” he says. “This is a dream that we can achieve together.”
Chief Executive Officer of Rashid and Latifa Schools Foundation
Abdul Salam Mohammed Khalifa Saqr Al Marri
Chief Executive Officer of Rashid and Latifa Schools Foundation
As an executive director of Rashid School for Boys and Latifa School for Girls, Abdul Salam Al Marri believes in promoting a school culture that is grounded in positivity and driven by continuous learning.
With his team, Mr Al Marri develops the policy of Rashid and Latifa schools, as well as their strategic, operational and developmental plans. He oversees the administrative, financial and academic management of the schools, ensuring that the education students are receiving is preparing them to contribute to the development and growth of the UAE.
Mr Al Marri believes that continuous development is a top priority and is dedicated to nurturing a culture of passion and purpose among the students and staff of Rashid and Latifa schools.
Chief Executive Officer of Knowledge and Human Development Policies Sector
Currently serving as the CEO for Knowledge and Human Development Policies at KHDA, Ms Belhasa is one of the founding members of KHDA, and brings 27 years of education sector experience to her role. She is responsible for the development of all KHDA policies and guidelines that help to advance the strategic objectives of the Government of Dubai.
“The key to understanding the needs of the members of our education community is to stay engaged with them. This helps us to create more effective policies and guidelines that serve our community better,” she says.
Ms Belhasa has gained diverse leadership experience in both public and private sector organisations throughout her career, enabling her to use this in her current lead role.
H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid Al Maktoum appointed Ms Belhasa to head the IT Education Project (ITEP) to provide technical skills to public sector schools. “Playing a role in introducing and developing computer skills in public sector schools was a career-fulfilling accomplishment,” she says of her ITEP experience.
While leading KHDA’s Compliance and Resolution, Ms Belhasa introduced the Parent-School Contract, which connected parents and schools through a common resolution platform and created greater clarity of each party’s expectations, rights and responsibilities.
“The main purpose of the Parent-School Contract was to build common understanding and raise awareness of rights between schools and parents,” she says, “which in turn helped to gain further insight into our education community.”
Ms Belhasa was appointed as board member of KHDA by H.H. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau
As CEO of the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau (DSIB), Fatma Belrehif leads the team that sets the standards for, and assures the quality of, private schools in Dubai. Ms Belrehif was part of the original team that started inspecting Dubai private schools in 2008. Since that time, she has seen the proportion of students attending schools rated as ‘good’ or better increase from 30 to 66 per cent.
She attributes this considerable improvement in the quality of provision to the hard work put in by schools and their communities, guided by aspirational, shared standards and rigorous annual inspections. She believes that the inspection process has helped to raise expectations of students, parents and teachers alike. "It is a privilege for me to go into schools to meet students, parents, and teachers, and to work with them to help them to improve their schools" she says.
A vocal advocate for the inclusion of students of determination in schools, Ms Belrehif chairs the Inclusive Education Task Force, which was set up by the Dubai Executive Education Council. She is also passionate about students’ holistic development and sits on the National Moral Education Committee.
Ms Belrehif is active in helping ensure that Emirati students make good progress in their learning. "It is very heartening to see Emirati students working towards achieving their potential, and gaining lifelong-learning skills that enable them to become better team members, better leaders, better parents and better citizens."
Ms Belrehif holds a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in public administration. In 2008, Ms Belrehif was recognised as a Distinguished Employee by the Dubai Government Excellence Programme. She graduated from the Mohammed Bin Rashid Program for Leadership Development in 2006.
As the quality of education in Dubai private schools continues to improve, Ms Belrehif looks ahead. "We are proud of the efforts made by our educational community to improve outcomes for children" she says. "At the same time, we always have more to do; we always have more to give."
Chief Executive Officer of Permits and Compliance Sector
Mohammed Darwish, Chief of the Regulations and Permits Commission at KHDA, is clear about his role. “My ultimate goal is to witness the day when education in Dubai is a benchmark for countries around the world,” he says. To this end, he and his team make sure that early learning centres, schools, universities and training institutes comply with the regulations KHDA has put into place.
“The private education sector in Dubai is still maturing, so regulation makes sure that it offers students and parents in Dubai with a wide range of high quality schools,” he continues.
His team issues permits to new early learning centres, schools, universities and training institutes in Dubai, regulates school fees through a comprehensive framework, and ensures private education providers adhere to KHDA’s guidelines, while supporting them in their ambition to serve Dubai’s residents.
“KHDA is unique in this respect,” says Mr Darwish. “We regulate the schools, but we don’t own their curricula or resources.”
His day-to-day work brings him into frequent contact with the public, an aspect of his job Mr Darwish greatly enjoys. “I meet people from so many different backgrounds, who all bring their own ideas about what education is all about - it makes the education landscape in Dubai very rich.”
Mr Darwish is a graduate of the Dubai Leadership Programme at The Wharton School and INSEAD’s Young Managers Programme in France. He holds a degree in Media Studies from UAE University, in addition to professional qualifications from CIPS –UK. He has a wealth of experience with organisations such as DUBAL and Dubai World.
Chief of Engagement
KHDA’s Chief of Engagement is clear about her role: “We want to enable parents, teachers, students and investors in Dubai to be happier,” says Mouza Al Suwaidi. The true impact of engagement, she continues, goes beyond the act of engagement. “Our strength is as conveners, and my role is about people – we are in a privileged position to bring together the people in our community who are passionate and committed to improving student outcomes and education in Dubai,” she says.
Whether it’s through enabling connections and learning between teachers at What Works events; using custom social media networks to connect Dubai’s school leaders and principals; or engaging in dialogue with more parents, students and teachers through social media, Ms Al Suwaidi recognises that her team’s greatest strengths are in the relationships they help others to build.
When people connect with each other, they learn more, they open their minds to new experiences and perspectives, they innovate, and they become happier.
Ms Al Suwaidi brings to KHDA 20 years’ experience in government and semi-government organisations, working across a range of roles and functions.
She earned an MBA from the United States, an experience which taught her much about communication and the value of diversity. “The education I got there went beyond what I learned in the classroom,” she said. “I learned that the success of organisations, and society, depend on how well people are able to talk to each other.”
“We work in education, and the heart of education is heart,” she says.
Chief Executive Officer of Strategy and Planning Sector
Dr Wafi Dawood is responsible for building and improving the education and human development strategy in Dubai. Along with his team, his work is focused on reaching the targets of the UAE 2021 National Agenda. Working with his team, he helps to achieve Dubai’s strategic plan and promote Dubai as a centre for world-class education.
Dr Dawood’s role includes seeking and attracting new ideas and opportunities that will support meaningful change for KHDA, for Dubai and for the UAE. “I always look for international best practices in institution development that will create unique experiences for government stakeholders and help create a culture of innovation,” says Dr Dawood.
Dr Wafi Dawood led KHDA’s involvement in the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) programme, and was instrumental in helping KHDA to be the first organisation in the Middle East to be awarded the 5 Stars Recognised for Excellence Award.
Dr Dawood holds a Ph.D. in Performance Management and a Master's Degree in Engineering Management, both from the University of Sunderland in the United Kingdom. He is a graduate of the Sheikh Mohammed Leadership Programme. Dr Dawood has published a number of articles in the field of quality management and institutional performance, and is a key speaker at many international conferences focusing on institutional development.
In 2004, Dr Dawood was recognised as a Distinguished Employee of Dubai Government by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Dr Dawood was the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Dubai Quality Group between 2009 and 2010, and the Vice Chairman of the Global Benchmarking Network from 2007 to 2008. Previously, Dr Dawood was the Director of Corporate Performance & Quality at Dubai World Trade Centre, Quality Senior Manager at DP World.
Chief Executive Officer of Business Support Sector
As the head of Business Support, Abdulrahman Nassir is responsible for allocating and guiding KHDA’s resources and talents in ways that enable people to be happier and more productive.
The practices and processes followed by Mr Nassir’s team reflect the culture of KHDA: transparent, innovative and focused on improving people’s wellbeing. "The happiness of people is my work and my passion, and I always feel that every task should eventually lead to a smile on someone's face," says Mr Nassir.
Abdulrahman Nassir has a professional background in human resources management. He has a Master's degree in Quality Management from the University of Wollongong, as well as a passion for communication.
Chief Executive Officer for the Development of Emirati Student Education Programs
From former school teacher and principal, to current policy maker and thought leader, Fatma Al Marri has been involved in all facets of education.
One of her main objectives is in supporting students enrolled in private education in Dubai. Her priorities lie in helping Emirati parents make confident, informed choices for their children’s schools, promoting Emirati national identity in private schools and in recruiting more Emirati teachers to the private education sector.
“National identity is not only about celebrating national days,” she says. “It’s in daily life; it’s in the exposure Emirati students have to a teacher, to a curriculum. It’s how we interact with each other, with the world.”
Through initiatives such as Living Arabic, Ms Al Marri and her team work closely with schools and teachers to improve the quality of Arabic language teaching and learning in all schools in Dubai. She is a champion of the UAE Moral Education curriculum, working with school leaders and parents to help Dubai students receive an education that is grounded in the values of respect, kindness and compassion. Ms Al Marri’s work also contributes to the achievement of the UAE 2021 National Agenda targets, which benchmarks student outcomes in the UAE with those in the rest of the world.
From 2007 to 2011, Ms Al Marri was one of nine women appointed as a member of the Federal National Council (FNC), serving on its educational policies committee and working with ministries on education related concerns. “It was a very enlightening experience,” she says, “because it gave me the opportunity to look at education issues from another angle – I was able to understand them more clearly.”
Ms Al Marri envisions an education landscape where all schools in Dubai work together. “It’s true that techniques and approaches are different,” she says, “but this is something we should take advantage of. We all have the same objectives, after all.”
To reflect this collaborative approach to education, Ms Al Marri has served on the board of Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University since 2010. In 2017 she also joined the board of trustees of the Higher Colleges of Technology in addition to her role on the board of Knowledge Fund Establishment.
Passionate about preserving the Arabic language, Ms Al Marri is a senior member of the Arabic Language Advisory Council. She is a member of Dubai Traffic Safety committee and The Dubai Appreciation Award for Community Service which aims to honour those who demonstrate commitment to social responsibility.
In support of furthering women’s ambitions, Ms Al Marri is also a board member of Reach, an NGO that aims to empower women.
Chief of Creativity, Happiness & Innovation
Hind Al Mualla is a people person. As KHDA’s Chief of Creativity, Happiness and Innovation (CHI), her passion for people ensures that the organisation nurtures the best talent, builds valuable working relationships and makes the most of innovative ideas.
Her team not only embodies the Chinese meaning of the word chi- life force- but forms the basis of the way they work, have positive relationships with customers and each other, and being happier in their work and in their lives. “The Chi team’s role is to harness creativity to build a more positive education sector with wellbeing at the heart of everything we do,” she said.
Ms Al Mualla believes diversity is one of the most exciting aspects of her role. “We all share the same vision; to give students in Dubai a high-quality education. Everyone in education is passionate about what they do and keen to promote change and development,” she says.
Ms Al Mualla also heads KHDA’s 10x team – a project to take education ten years into the future, in just two years. The 10x team has developed Rahhal, an initiative that promotes and recognises learning outside of the traditional school environment. “It’s not often we get the chance to change the world,” says Ms Al Mualla, “but with Rahhal, we are. Students and parents all over Dubai will be able to control their own learning journeys in a supportive regulatory environment.”
Advisor to the Director General
Jo Maher doesn’t bother much with challenges or difficulties. "I’m always on the lookout for things that are working, and then thinking about how we can add to that," she says. "Whether it’s parents and students who are happy with the education they’re receiving, or people and organisations who are trying new things – I look for examples, I look for evidence, and then I look to see what we’re doing as an organisation to create value and improve wellbeing."
Part of her work involves preparing policy briefs, research papers and reports that detail the state of education in Dubai and put its development in an international context. "I want to make sure that the conversation about how to improve education is based on facts, because when people have facts and data, they have a solid reference point from which to move forward," she adds.
The experience she has gained at KHDA does not compare to her previous work as an educator and policy maker, she notes. "This job is not about where you’ve been; it’s about where you are now, and it’s about what you’re planning to do in the future. No other countries have the education landscape that we do in Dubai, so all the things that we may bring with us from other systems and cultures that may have been relevant in the past or somewhere else, need to be unlearned and relearned."
As she continues to drive and shape Dubai’s private education sector, she encourages her team to be pioneering in their search for solutions. "Listen to Dubai’s community and look within Dubai and around the world for examples of success that may trigger ideas and share those ideas back with the community," she says, "I ask people to think innovatively, never to be constrained by "pre-sets."
Through the challenges and rewards her day-to-day job presents, Ms Maher keeps her main goal in clear view: "I want KHDA to be an international model for how education can contribute to the growth of a country and produce global citizens."
Director of Customer Happiness Experiences
Mr Al Suwaidi is the "happiness maker" of KHDA, both for external customers such as schools and parents, and for colleagues internally. With his team ‘Hayakum’ – meaning ‘delight’ in Arabic – he ensures that customers are served compassionately and effectively, providing services such as certification and equivalence of certificates, transfer of students, and enabling students to have access to the best quality education possible.
Mr Al Suwaidi works to create a welcoming environment for guests, which includes a concierge service that connects them with the appropriate KHDA team member, caters for their needs during their visit, and ensures they are comfortable and happy throughout.
"Making our guests happy makes me happy, and my goal is to provide support in ways that our guests don’t expect. This is the culture of KHDA, and the culture of our Hayakum team. We always say ‘If you’re happy talk to us, and if you’re not happy, talk to us,” he says.
Mr Al Suwaidi holds a Bachelor of Administrative Sciences from Zayed University and has earned a diploma as part of his work with the National Programme of Happiness and Positivity.
Chief Executive Officer of the National Institute for Vocational Education (NIVE)
Dr. Naji Al Mahdi has extensive experience in the managerial, strategic and operational aspects of technical education and vocational training. He has taught at higher and further education institutions and delivered professional development programmes to senior educators for more than two decades.
Dr. Al Mahdi currently heads the National Institute for Vocational Education (NIVE), established in 2006 under the direction of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum to provide students with the opportunity to gain specific job competencies geared to enhancing their employability and progression at work and higher education. NIVE is an autonomously managed organisation affiliated with the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA.
Dr. Al Mahdi provides consultancy and technical services in the field of vocational education; prepares and publishes research and studies in the field of vocational education; and coordinates with public and private organisations to align NIVE’s offerings with the requirements of the labor market.
Dr. Al Mahdi’s role involves developing Dubai's technical and vocational training and education strategy - a top priority to support Dubai in meeting its future aspirations and positioning it as a destination for technical and vocational education and training. He also oversees the offering of vocational qualifications and the conferral of diplomas and degrees in professional disciplines;
Dr. Al Mahdi holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and a PhD in engineering and numerical analysis from the UK. He was also a research fellow at the Fulbright Small Business Development Programme in the United States of America. Dr Al Mahdi is a member of UAE Vocational Education and Training Awards Commission (VETAC) and a number of national and international educational committees and advisory groups.