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Benefiting from an educated approach

posted on 04/12/2004: 1779 views



The UAE is on its way towards achieving its target of full literacy within five years. Today, the illiteracy rate in the country is 10 per cent. This qualitative leap in the field of education is a result of sound planning as well as curriculum that meets the needs of the times.



It is a far cry from the 1960s, when there were only a handful of primary schools, which were mainly funded by Kuwait and catered to male students. According to UNESCO's Education for Global Monitoring Report, the UAE is one of the 15 countries where girls outnumber boys in formal education.



Before the establishment of the UAE Federation in 1971, education for girls was a distant dream. Similarly, students who wished to pursue higher education used to be enrolled in colleges and universities in Qatar and Egypt. "I had the choice of going abroad for higher studies, but I stayed back and did my e-commerce right here in my own country,” says Ali Humaid, a former student at Dubai Men's College.



"Today, young UAE nationals first prefer to scan through the programmes offered by the various affiliated colleges and the Higher Colleges of Technologies. The UAE has invested in education and the most impressive part of it all is the change that was brought about in the curriculum to suit the growing needs of the job market.”



The UAE, according to Unesco, leads Arab countries in meeting its goals under the ‘education for all' programme. Primary and secondary education is free for UAE nationals, and primary education is compulsory between the ages of six to 12. Statistics provided by the Ministry of Information and Culture show the allocated education budget has increased by 23 times since 1973.



The educational budget in fiscal year 1997 was Dh3.19 billion — accounting for more than 16 per cent of the state budget. The number of public schools in the UAE grew from 132 in 1972 to about 668 in 1997-98, and student enrolment also leapt from 40,115 to 312,000 in that period.



In public primary schools, the number of students increased from 30,495 in 1972 to 154,191 in 1996. Similarly, in the preparatory stage, the number of students went up from 3,453 to 78,632, while at the secondary level the figures rose from 1,225 to 52,736 in the same period. A simultaneous growth was also witnessed in the private sector.



The number of private schools increased from 18 in 1972 to 400 in 1997-98 with the total number of students in private schools totalling 200,000, from a starting figure of 3,583. Ministry of Education records show that in 1980, the illiteracy rate was 77 per cent, but this figure dropped to 20 per cent within 15 years. In addition, the UAE yearbook 2004 mentions 371,000 primary and high school students were enrolled in the academic year 2003-04 in the country's 1,500 public and private schools with Arabic curriculums.



The following figures throw light on how higher education has shown a remarkable increase.

The UAE University shows an increase of 4,230 students for the academic year 2003-04 as compared with the previous year when the number was 3,972.



Private sector

Figures provided by a study conducted by the National Bank of Dubai in 2002 indicates the total value of paid capital in the private education sector exceeded Dh1 billion in 2002.

The study, titled The UAE's private general education industry: some analytical results, shows that most of this paid capital came from UAE national investors at 58.9 per cent, followed by foreign non-Arab investors at 27.6 per cent, and GCC nationals at about Dh5 million.



The study gave a further breakdown of curriculums in 2001-02 and says, of the 407 private schools in the UAE, 30 per cent offered the Ministry of Education's curriculum, 16 per cent offered the Indian curriculum, 15.7 per cent British curriculum, and 11.5 per cent had an unstated curriculum.



The study also states that in 2001-02 about 89 per cent of the 258,000 students attending schools in the private sector were located in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah. About 22,600 students were enrolled in private higher education institutions during the same time, of which 29 per cent were UAE nationals.



"Anyone who undertakes to list the goals of education in our world will come up with a long list in a short time,” says Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and Chancellor of the Higher Colleges of Technology, elaborating his views on the impact of technological education on national development.

"There is, I believe, general agreement that education has two primary purposes. It must provide the skills required to permit each individual to function productively during his or her lifetime.



And it must provide the knowledge from the past and information of the present that form the intellectual, ethical and moral context within which people will live their lives.

"All students require certain basic skills that are fundamental to all areas of human activity. Likewise, all professions proceed on a set of skills determined by worldwide standards and practices.



These skills prepare the student for useful and productive occupations so that they can contribute to the economic and social development of the nation. We require an educational system that is dedicated to community enrichment, to competence and commitment in the workplace and to broad knowledge, wisdom and strength of character for every student,” he says. (The Gulf News UAE National Day Supplement)

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