ACT announced last week that they won a contract to provide a standardized assessment for a moral education program for students in the United Arab Emirates called the Moral Education Standardized Assessment (MESA).
In their press release, they state they will leverage the expertise of its US-based research and test development teams to create the assessment, which will also utilize the latest theory and principles of social and emotional learning (SEL) throughout the development process.
“We are thrilled to be supporting a holistic approach to student success,” ACT Chief Commercial Officer Suzana Delanghe said. “We know that social and emotional learning skills are crucial to success in school and life and these skills can be taught and developed over time. With their learning and measurement expertise, our teams will create a world-class assessment that measures UAE student readiness, so teachers can more effectively foster the shared cultural values across UAE’s diverse communities.”
“Moral Education is an innovative, engaging curriculum designed to develop young people of all nationalities and ages in the UAE with universal principles and values that reflect the shared experiences of humanity,” Mohammed Khalifa Al Nuaimi, the Director of the Education Affairs Office at the Crown Prince Court of Abu Dhabi, said. “The curriculum was introduced in the UAE in 2017 in an initiative from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. Through the MESA, we plan to assess the impact of Moral Education over time in an independent and standardized manner. Beyond testing the students’ knowledge and understanding of concepts, we aim to measure their awareness of the character traits and values underpinning the Moral Education Program.”
The UAE’s Moral Education program builds upon these four “pillars”:
Character & Morality: “The character and morality curriculum is centred around developing each student as honest, tolerant, resilient and persevering individuals.”
Individual & Community: “A true citizen is one that takes care of themselves in addition to caring about the good of society and participating actively to make things better.”
Civic Studies: “Whether a student was born in the UAE or moved here with their family, it is essential to understand the fundamentals of how the UAE was formed and how it is governed today.”
Cultural Studies: “Culture is an inherent part of a society and the program wants to highlight UAE’s shared human culture that encapsulates the traditions and symbols that help define who we are.”
While the UAE is certainly more “tolerant” than some of their neighbors, they are not exactly a bastion of freedom and religious tolerance.
This kind of assessment also begs the question: whose morals will be taught and assessed?
So why am I writing about a morality assessment that will be used in the UAE at Truth in American Education? Peter Greene in his piece at Forbes made the following point:
It would be easy to pass this course and test off as an exercise in futility, except for a couple of things. First, the test will likely be digital, and therefore captured as more data for the test taker’s personal permanent file. Second, while the program is being piloted for UAE, once ACT has it built, they’re sure to want to market it other places as well. Keep your eyes peeled for the standardized morality test at a school near you.
Look for ACT to bring this test home once they have their test bank items developed.