Navigating the intricate landscape of the education industry, Irum Farhat Farooq stands as a beacon of innovation, dedication, and passion. As the Founder & CEO of EduEnhance in the UAE, her journey extends far beyond the realms of business. With roots deeply entrenched in educational training and management, Irum’s narrative is a testament to her unwavering commitment to creating a level playing field in education. For her, it’s not just about academia; it’s about ensuring that every child, irrespective of where they come from or their social circumstances, has equal access to quality education. In this candid conversation with UAE Times, Irum unveils the milestones of her journey, shares the guiding philosophies that power her endeavors, and lays out her vision for the future of education. Dive in to discover the inspiring journey of a woman determined to make a difference, one student at a time.
Can you share key milestones and turning points in your journey as an industry leader or entrepreneur?
Thank you for offering this opportunity to share the story of my entrepreneurial journey with you and your wonderful readers.
After training and working as a teacher in several countries for many years, I developed deep insights into the education system. While there were areas where the system was thriving, it faced challenges, especially in addressing the needs of 21st-century learners, the digital-natives. In 2012, I co-founded a learning center in Dubai, marking the onset of my entrepreneurial journey. We became pioneers in ‘blended learning’ in the region. Throughout this period, we worked diligently to help students achieve their academic goals. We also collaborated with the Dubai government and partnered with the largest school group in the UAE, providing personalized intervention to students.
Another significant turning point was the success we observed through the program we had implemented in our learning centers. This program, i-Ready, is designed by Curriculum Associates (CA), a leading education publisher in the USA. Their mission to improve classrooms and provide research-based, high-quality programs with unparalleled support inspired us. So, when they proposed the opportunity to become their Exclusive Representatives in the MEA region, it felt like a natural progression. As a result, EduEnhance was established in 2019. Since then, we have been serving the educational community by implementing Curriculum Associates’ award-winning programs in schools.
What inspired you to start your own company or venture in the education industry in the UAE?
I was born in the UAE and spent a beautiful childhood in this country. Even at a young age, I could appreciate the diversity and inclusivity the UAE and the GCC region offered, witnessing hundreds of nationalities co-existing peacefully. My inspiration came from my father, who was one of the pioneer pilots to establish the UAE Airforce Academy under the able leadership of H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in the early 1980s. He trained fighter pilots for the next twenty years. He consistently praised the UAE leadership’s vision to grow, prosper, and make a global impact.
When I returned to the UAE after several years of studying and working abroad, I observed that the UAE leadership had maintained its legacy of being trailblazers in multiple sectors. They offered opportunities to aspiring entrepreneurs who demonstrated ability, knowledge, and passion. I was certain about the sector I wanted to contribute to — Education was my calling. The UAE provided the platform and opportunities I needed to realize my ambition and deliver quality education and resources to schools across different geographies.
The regional vision to elevate education standards and secure a bright future for our children continues to inspire me, just as it inspired my father.
How do you foster innovation within your company? Can you provide an example of a successful innovation initiative?
Innovation is, by default, a key factor in the success of any entrepreneurial initiative; a mindset resistant to change is counterproductive to growth and progress. Especially in the education sector, growth and innovation lie at the heart of our mission. Our primary objective is to empower educators with the right tools, technology, and programs to bridge learning gaps and boost academic growth for every student. We offer state-of-the-art, data-driven programs that truly harness 21st-century research and best practices, elevating academic achievement in the K-12 sector. But most importantly, we recognize the unique needs of our region and understand that they must be appreciated and addressed with tailored solutions.
A recent innovative initiative of ours is the launch of the Middle East Edition of Curriculum Associates’ highly-rated literacy program, Magnetic Reading. This edition ensures the program’s fidelity, grounded in the Science of Reading, remains intact, while the cultural sensitivities of the region are both honored and respected.
What differentiates your company services in the current market?
A key insight for the education sector in recent times has been the understanding that a ‘one size fits all’ approach doesn’t hold true for either students or teachers. Our primary focus remains on discerning our school partners’ individual needs and offering solutions tailored to them. We recognize that implementing a new program or innovation can be daunting. Thus, we leverage our extensive experience in the region to provide bespoke support at every stage of the process.
Our team adopts an asset-based approach to assist schools in embracing innovative programs, ensuring research-based and data-driven instruction in the classroom. We don’t perceive the schools we collaborate with merely as customers; we see them as partners working towards a shared vision of high-quality education that truly prepares students for a successful future.
How important has mentorship been in your professional journey?
Throughout my journey of self-discovery, I’ve realized the importance of maintaining an open mind and embracing mentorship for both personal and professional growth. Numerous individuals have played pivotal roles in the success of my professional journey, aiding me in breaking the glass ceiling. I believe it’s essential to find your tribe, one that encompasses cheerleaders, champions, coaches, and critics. Each member offers motivation, inspiration, guidance, and reflection. I’m particularly inspired by individuals who strive for excellence and shatter conventional norms, all while exuding empathy and actively nurturing their communities.
How do you plan to lead your company to capitalize on emerging opportunities and industry shifts?
I am deeply inspired by the region’s leaders who are driving educational transformation through a clear vision and rapid innovation. At EduEnhance, in partnership with Curriculum Associates, we are dedicated to aligning our programs with regional needs and supporting this vision with bespoke solutions. Through collaboration, we stand ready to promote high-quality education in our communities alongside these visionary leaders.
I believe in the power of partnerships and collaboration to achieve a shared vision and goals. The focus must always be on supporting every member of the educational fraternity, including leadership, educators, students, and their families.
What does meaningful impact in education mean for you? And what are your plans to achieve such impact? we asked Irum Farhat Farooq
I firmly believe that impact in education isn’t confined to academic achievement alone. It also encompasses advancing the holistic wellbeing and development of our students, as well as supporting other integral pillars of our educational fraternity. Through our partnership with Curriculum Associates, I am excited to provide schools with comprehensive solutions that are research-based and genuinely inclusive, with an emphasis on culturally responsive pedagogy.
Moreover, I believe it’s vital to implement curricula and instruction that encourages productive struggle and allows students the freedom to take risks. This conviction propels both me and my team to advance our programs and offer unwavering support to leaders and educators in the region each day.
What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs in this industry? What key lessons have you learned along the way?
Firstly, I’d say that while entrepreneurship stems from one’s passion and perseverance, it truly takes a village to make a successful entrepreneur. Nurture your team and build an organizational culture where you feel united towards a common goal. Value those who stand by you, helping you discover your strengths and weaknesses. Surround yourself with individuals who inspire you, and in turn, be a beacon of support and inspiration to others.
Be curious and always be a good listener. Master the art of risk-taking and don’t shy away from change, rather embrace it and maintain a growth mindset. And most importantly, persevere in your endeavors and remain excited about the possibilities of the future.
Connect with Irum Farhat Farooq on LinkedIn.