LEESBURG, FL — Continuing its dedication to support students globally with learning disabilities, Beacon College has begun the formal process of collaborating with a prominent center in the United Arab Emirates.
On March 15, Beacon College President George J. Hagerty and Her Excellency Sheikha Jameela Bint Mohammed Al-Qasimi, vice president of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs and director general of Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services, inked a historic Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
The collaboration aims to “expand the services provided by Beacon to those with LD that reside in Sharjah, the UAE, and regionally with the support” of the Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services (SCHS), the agreement noted. Beacon College is the first college or university accredited to award bachelor’s degrees primarily to students with learning disabilities, ADHD and other learning differences.
“We’ve always recognized that the issue of students who learn differently is a matter without borders and that we’ve been blessed here in the United States to at least have 40 years to set a foundation for understanding and serving these students and their needs,” Hagerty said, alluding to the passage of the Education of All Handicapped Children Act in 1975.
The not-for-profit advocacy group Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services — based in one of the three largest and most populous emirates in the United Arab Emirates — fosters inclusion and empowerment of individuals with disabilities in the Emirates and the Arab world.
“SCHS is eager to capture this [Beacon’s] expertise for the population and community that it serves through its newly established Center, ‘Sharjah Center for Learning Difficulties,’” the memorandum said.
Experts estimate 65,000 students in the UAE live with learning disabilities. As proposed under the MoU, Beacon College — in conjunction with either The Fletcher School in Charlotte, NC or Pace Brantley School in Longwood, Fla. — will offer teacher training for United Arab Emirates educators serving the grades K-12 student population.
Additionally, under the MoU, Beacon will deliver undergraduate-level training and offer a two-week on-site version of its successful COMPASS program (similar to its U.S.-based “Summer for Success” program, which will again be available this summer in July on the Beacon campus). COMPASS introduces students to their learning styles and equips them with effective strategies for pursuing their late high school and early college years.
During her visit to the Beacon campus in October, Her Excellency Sheikha Jameela commented that it was her “ambition to see students in Sharjah who learn differently breakthrough to achieve their highest potentials.”
Indeed, a 2011 study published by UAE University in Al Ain found 459 of 2,500 Emirati university students displayed signs of dyslexia.
Thus, Sharjah’s need and Beacon’s nearly three decades of experience now helping 83 percent of this unique population graduate and nearly the same percentage find worthy work or pursue post-graduate study were the makings of an ideal partnership.
Her Excellency Sheikha Jameela said, “As it is around the globe, and likely even in the U.S., the UAE faces issues with inadequate resources, support and misperceptions about learning disabilities.” In this context, however, she paid special tribute to the U.S. for its many decades of legislative and policy achievements directed to all disabilities — and most prominently, students who learn differently.
The collaboration with SCHS, negotiated over 12 months by New Hampshire-based GoGlobal Education, is the latest example of Beacon’s global leadership in disability education.
In 2015, in conjunction with The King Salman Center for Disability Research in Riyadh, Beacon College launched the COMPASS program, believed to be the first secondary-school-to-higher education international transition program of its kind. Beacon welcomed a group of Saudi high school students to the college’s Leesburg campus for a successful residential immersion experience.
GoGlobal Education CEO and Managing Partner Patrick van Rooyen said in a press release, “the final outcome is exciting for both Beacon College and the Emirate of Sharjah as it now provides for the region a key education initiative to assist those thousands of young students that often struggle due to learning differences.”
Praising her as a “visionary” humanitarian leader, especially regarding disability issues, Hagerty noted, “With Her Excellency Sheikha Jameela and the SCHS we found spirits and passions equal to our own to improve the way we educate these students and provide for their ultimate success in life and work.”
The MoU, he continued, is the first tangible step of what will be “a long-term partnership that we both have a commitment to sustaining. Our intention is to support the efforts of Sharjah and the other Emirates and serve well a special group of students.”
Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services (SCHS) is a local non-profit organization founded in 1979 as a branch of the Arab Family Organization in the Gulf region, aiming to advance the Arab family and develop the social services it needs.
GoGlobal Education is a New Hampshire-based international education consultancy that focuses on international strategy initiatives for education institutions.
Beacon College (http://beaconcollege.edu) is the first higher-education institution accredited to award bachelor’s degrees primarily to students with learning disabilities, ADHD and other learning differences. With 320 students and nine academic programs, it is nationally recognized as a topflight institution for supporting and preparing students who learn differently to prosper in a global economy.