Tapping UAE’s education sector requires its own skill sets
The UAE Government’s efforts to undertake significant reforms in its education sector are fundamental to its ambition for an economic framework driven by creativity, knowledge, and innovation. Education is central to this transition and will be the main driving force behind future success.
The Vision 2021 National Agenda — which seeks to catapult the Gulf state into the ranks of one of the globe’s most prosperous, forward-thinking nations — has emphasised the need to effect a complete transformation of the learning system and teaching methods to build one worthy of the future. Government support for education, along with the implementation of a series of important initiatives, has been remarkable to say the least.
Higher education, in particular, is flourishing and opportunities abound, with predictions for robust growth. An industry report forecast a compounded annual growth rate of 7.3- and 5.3 per cent in private and public enrolments, respectively, while 123,564 students are expected to enrol in private universities and 61,551 students in public universities by 2020.
With this report alone as the basis, it is safe to say that the number of students in the country is rising significantly year-on-year. The young demographic and a booming population will further fuel demand for a world-class education system.
These activities make the higher education sector in the UAE ripe for more investments. To date, at least 600 schools are operating in the country, nurturing the potential of all and pushing them to excel in their main fields of interest. More overseas students are coming in to enrol in the international colleges and universities operating here, and thus the need to attract investments to address their requirements.
Research and development (R&D) is a key area critical to the shift to a knowledge economy and the sustained success of the country’s economic diversification policy. The government is eyeing to triple its investments in R&D, in addition to promoting efforts to align the curricula in universities to the needs of the domestic labour market.
Continuous teacher training is another fundamental activity that will help bring the sector to the next level.
Education reforms are essential if we are to equip the youth with a skill set that will help them jump-start their careers and be competitive. In addition, investing in higher education is the key to addressing the pressing issue of skills shortage. In this regard, education providers and other stakeholders have an important role to play to ensure the young are geared up for the real world.
Increased collaboration between the public and private sectors is indeed in order. For example, the government’s emiratization policy encourages the private sector to train and employ more UAE citizens so they can eventually join the workforce. This partnership will guarantee that Emiratis select study streams that are more attuned with the needs of the times.
The tide is turning fast and the dramatic changes taking place highlight the role of education in making the transformation happen. Many are now capitalising on opportunities this may bring.