The National Archives celebrates the signing of the book entitled "Development of Education in the United Arab Emirates" at Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2018

The National Archives celebrates the signing of the book entitled "Development of Education in the United Arab Emirates" at Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2018

The National Archives celebrates the signing of the book entitled "Development of Education in the United Arab Emirates" at Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2018


The signing corner at Abu Dhabi International Book Fair witnessed the signing of the book entitled "Development of Education in the United Arab Emirates" recently published by the National Archives. Distinguished dignitaries, journalists and authors attended the signing ceremony.

The author, Mohammed Hassan Al Harbi, signed issues of the book in the presence of Hamad Al Hamiri, Director of Research and Knowledge Services Department in the National Archives, and a large number of the exhibition's visitors.

The importance of this book, published by the National Archives, stems from the fact that it documents the development of education in the UAE in the period from 1904 to 1971, which started at the hands of traditional religious teachers "Al Mutawa'ah" and eventually reached the stage of formal education.

The book indicates that education started by the "Mutawa'ah" who established "Katateeb" at their residents in settled communities. In many cases, that education did not exceed reading of the Qur’an and teaching students how to memorize it. Students rarely passed this stage to learn other sciences or subjects.

 In the preface to the book, Mr. Abdul Ghaffar Hussein notes that it is very difficult to date back the creation of the "Katateeb" by "Mutawa’ah" in the coast of Oman or the UAE to a particular time; since it is known that the "Katateeb" are an old tradition in communities, villages and countryside, and are still so in many remote small areas in Islamic countries. 

Mr. Abdul Ghaffar Hussein confirms that another form of education, that was more advanced than the " Katateeb" of the "Mutawa’ah", dates back  in the UAE to a time earlier than the beginning of the 20th century, when we hear about schools such as: Al Taimiyya, Al Falah and Al Ahmadiyya in Sharjah and Dubai.  One might refer to manuscripts written by the people of the UAE, such as the books of the famous seafarer Ahmed Bin Majid, which date back to the fifteenth century AD, and of Captain Saeed Bin Ahmad Bin Matar in the early nineteenth century, as well as some manuscripts on jurisprudence, pearl weights and others which date back to the middle of the ninth century AH. At the end of the preface, Abdul Ghaffar Hussein asserts that only in the early 1960s did the UAE begin to experience the earliest modern formal education.

His Excellency Mohammed Al Murr indicates in the introduction to the book that  the story of the early education in the UAE is that of great desire and eagerness of the UAE people to free themselves from ignorance and backwardness, and to join their fellow Arabs who went ahead of them in this vital and important field.

Al Murr pointed out that education in the UAE has gone through three phases: the Katateeb, small sparse schools, and formal education. He then stresses the points mentioned to him by the distinguished scholar and author Hashim Al Hashimi who witnessed the stage of education with sparse small schools in the Emirate of Dubai, and followed that by talking about the flaws of the beginning of formal education as mentioned by the respected scholar Mr. Rafiq Ja'arour, who witnessed that stage.

In the introduction to the second edition published by the National Archives, the author Mohammad Hassan Al Harbi indicated that the first edition was published in 1988 by the Union of UAE Writers and Authors in Sharjah. Previously, it was published in the form of eleven weekly reports under the same title, in Al Khaleej daily Newspaper in 1983.

The author notes that this book documents part of the oral history of the UAE and the leading vision that is the main pillar of the UAE. He states that this study will ensure that future generations will have a clear, incessant and unremitting history, which will have positive effects on UAE people and their cultural identity.

The author explains that this book includes a historical stage starting from the beginning of the twentieth century (1904) and ending at the establishment of the UAE in 1971, i.e. since education was transformed from its primitive form "the Katateeb" to its more modern sophisticated formal form, which the early 1960s represent the beginning of its inception in several of the UAE Emirates, particularly in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah. Al Harbi stresses that the importance of this book stems from being the first book to chronicle the development of education in the UAE.

The book starts with education in Abu Dhabi, pointing out that it began with three schools for boys, indicating that formal education started in Abu Dhabi in 1958 but stopped in 1959 and then resumed in 1961. Secondly, the author turns to education in Dubai, where he questions whether Al Ahmadiyya School was the first school in Dubai. Does the date (1912 AD) written on one of its walls represent its construction date? Then he moves to Al Falah and Al Ahmadiyya schools and to their education system, subjects, teachers, students, number of classes and cultural activities.

The author interviews one of the female teachers "Mutawa’a", but with certain restrictions and conditions including: not to meet her face to face, to keep the meeting concise, and with no photos taken. In this meeting, the "Mutawa’a" Fatima Bint Sheikh Khalifa Bin Jum’a Bin Ghaith talks about her traditional education profession, which she practiced for 22 years ending in 1975, where she taught the Qur’an, Arabic Alphabet and grammar. Each students used to pay her a rupee or two monthly, while education continued throughout the year including summer and winter. The interview contained important details about this form of traditional education.


After which the book moves to education in Sharjah, starting this chapter with Al Taimiyyah School where education started in 1955. This school, later called "Al Islah" i.e. reform, was founded and managed by the late Ali Bin Mohammed Bin Ali Al Mahmoud Al Tamimi, a pearl merchant in Sharjah.  

The book monitors the development of education, referring to the subjects that were taught in "Al Mutawa’a", the fees paid for education, the relationship between the traditional teachers "al-Mutawa’" whether male or female and the student. It also introduces Al Qasimiya school, its classes, teachers, and its first female teacher, a Palestinian called Sharifa Al Ba’ba’, assisted by Saleha Al Mutawa’.  Then it addresses some of the difficulties and anecdotes the traditional teachers witnessed.  The book mentions (Fatima Al Zahra) Girls' School, which is the Qasimiya Girls' School itself, documenting the schools established in the 1950s and after, the first scholarship abroad, the first student from Sharjah to study abroad, the education related festivals that are held yearly, donations and the role of traders in these festivals.

The book also depicts education in Ajman and pinpoints Al Rashidiya School, its classes and students, then girls' education in Ajman, and cultural activities and festivals.


When the book turns to education in Ras Al Khaimah, it starts with Al Qasimiya elementary school, which used to be an old traditional house, followed by the "Seddiq secondary school". Then the book moves to "Al Jazeera Al Hamra" to monitor the development of education there. In all cases, it reviews salaries, the subjects taught in Al Qasimiya school of Ras Al Khaimah, parents' cooperation, festivals, teaching girls, and names of students. The book also shows interest in kindergartens, and includes charts, statistics and old rare photographs.

Book: Development of Education in the United Arab Emirates (1904-1972).

Author: Mohammad Hassan Al Harbi.

Publisher: National Archives, Abu Dhabi, 2017, second edition, 127 pages.