Education : key to UAE’s future progress

WAM Abu Dhabi, June 20th, 2013 – Education is receiving top priority in the development philosophy of UAE President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who also believes that education is the key to progress and the gateway to the modern era and that knowledge provides the dynamic force that keeps the UAE internationally competitive in the 21st century.

A rapid rise in the country’s population has necessitated considerable investment in education. Today, the UAE offers a comprehensive education to all male and female students from kindergarten to university, with free education for the country’s citizens being offered at all levels. The Al Ain-based United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) continues to be the country’s flagship national institution of higher education, whilst institutions such as Zayed University (ZU), which has campuses in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, were established by the Federal Government to educate national women and prepare them to actively participate in society. The Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT), on the other hand, offer a more technically oriented education in 17 well-equipped colleges spread throughout the United Arab Emirates.

The UAE also has a number of vocational and technical educational centres for those seeking practical training in their chosen careers.

Indeed, now that the educational infrastructure is in place, the focus is on ensuring that the youth of the country are ready to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century workplace and to ensure that there are enough jobs for these emerging graduates. Emiratisation of the workforce is being encouraged by the Government, especially in the private sector.

Education took the largest single share of the federal budget for 2013 at AED 9.9 billion, representing 22 per cent of the total allocations. In the effort to complete the implementation of the country’s Education Development Strategy, the education investment budget has been increased to AED 6 billion, 13.6 per cent of the total budget of AED 44.6 billion allocated to support development initiatives and to introduce advanced learning technologies and methods in government schools.

Meanwhile, the higher education sector has received AED 3.9 billion as part of a national strategy to further enhance higher education, promote scientific research, send more Emirati students abroad for study and to establish more buildings and facilities in government universities and colleges.

In September 2011, the Federal Cabinet approved the UAE’s education agenda until 2020. It is based on five fundamental themes that focus on the improvement of student achievement, development of the school environment, guaranteeing equal educational opportunities for all students, introducing programmes to instill and promote patriotism among students and enhancing administrative efficiency and effectiveness in the Ministry of Education.

The agenda also sets ten major goals and outlines many initiatives for achieving them, with practical plans and time-frames for delivery of each plan.

Among these are action plans for closing the gap in standards between the private and public sectors in education, restructuring the educational system, improving professionalism and developing technological systems in schools and educational districts.

A total number of 1,190 schools, 61 percent of which are government schools, will be covered by this scheme.

Another initiative envisages the provision of academic and professional guidance for students all over the UAE.

Sheikh Mohammed has emphasised that education and Emiratisation were at the top of the priorities for government action and that they, as a national responsibility, required all to be involved and that all national initiatives should be integrated, so as to deliver prosperity and a decent living for UAE citizens.

The 2012-2013 academic year saw the number of government and private schools increasing to 1,276 with a student body of 727,918 male and female students at all levels compared to only 74 schools accommodating 12,800 male and female students in the academic year 1971-1972, when the UAE was born.

Since that time, there have been major advances in education and the UAE today boasts a world class education system that is responsive to the knowledge economy, competitiveness, and the conditions of the labour market.

The Ministry of Education development strategy for the period 2011-2013 includes a series of initiatives all aimed at introducing the world’s best integrated learning technologies and standards.

Meanwhile, Sheikh Mohammed launched on 10th April 2012 the ‘Mohammed bin Rashid Initiative for smart Learning’, which will cover all the schools in the country. The AED one billion initiative will be implemented over a period of five years.

It aims to create a new learning environment in schools, through introducing ‘Smart Classes’ in all schools, providing every pupil with a tablet PC and high speed 4G networks.

Sheikh Mohammed stressed that the basic development of education is an essential part of Vision 2021 and is a national necessity for sustainable development as the road towards a better future for the UAE begins from the school.

He added that the government will continue to move forward on the same principle the UAE followed during the last forty years, proving its success. It is the principle of investing in the human factor and its development, as it represents the most valuable wealth the nation owns and constitutes both the objective and the means of development, said Sheikh Mohammed.

Humaid Mohammed Al Qattami, Minister of Education, said the UAE has made qualitative leaps in keeping pace with advanced learning revolution technology, establishing a state-of the-art ICT infrastructure in schools, publicising e-lessons and publishing 7000 e-contents and curricula.

He added that the ‘Mohammed bin Rashid Initiative for smart Learning’ would enable the ministry to improve curricula, diversify sources of knowledge, enrich e-contents, upgrade testing and assessment tools, publicise smart classes, introduce technology-based teaching methods, and provide schools, teachers and students with tablet computers and high speed internet network.

And in recognition of top achievers, the ministry has earmarked AED 100 million for a five-year integrated plan to nurture talent and top academic performers in coordination with Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award for Distinguished Academic Performance.

Looking at future, the Ministry is planning to spend AED 10.5 billion over the next five years to carry out 261 projects for replacement of 154 schools, and building new 109 schools across the country.

HIGHER EDUCATION The UAE has made record achievements in the higher education, establishing an excellent and diversified system in a very short period of time. The higher education landscape has changed dramatically over the past decades. Up to 1977, there was only one higher education provider; the UAE University in Al Al Ain, but today the UAE is home to more than 80 universities, colleges and higher institutes, admitting over 110,000 students, offering 780 academic and research programs of a wide range of specialisations. The UAE has fast become an international niche hub for higher education, with global leading universities from the US and Europe flocking to UAE to open accredited branches. Given the high reputation of its education institutions, the UAE has also enticed and attracted thousands of students from the region and the world at large. Likewise, enrollment of Emirati students in higher education is considered one among the world’s highest rates.

Government universities and colleges have maintained prominent status internationally. The UAE University (UAEU), the nation’s premier research university, ranked 374th among the world’s top 500 universities in the QS World University Rankings. The rankings of QS, a London-based international ranking of the world’s leading universities, are based on six factors: academic and employer surveys, staff-student ratios, research citations and the proportion of international staff and students.

Zayed University (ZU), another leading higher education institution, has obtained international recognition from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) in the United States.

The Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT), the largest higher educational institution in the UAE, has also maintained a well-respected reputation for innovative technical and vocational learning in the region and beyond.

The HCT celebrated on 27th March 2013 its 25th anniversary. The HCT operates as a system of 17 separate campuses for male and female students in various emirates, enrolling 20,000 students.

HCT graduates are eagerly sought by employers as they are capable of operating effectively in today’s global business environment. Over 60,000 academic credentials have been awarded to its graduates.

The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research is seeking to deliver excellence and leadership in a friendly-learning environment by graduating high-qualified professionals who can compete even in the international job market and contribute in building the knowledge-driven community. The Ministry is also providing learning opportunities to Emirati students in top foreign universities. Its mandate also includes encouraging and support innovative R’&’D and improving performance and efficiency of private higher education institutions.

The main focus of the Ministry’s strategic plan is to ensure continuous development of the higher education institutions so as to maintain their reputed international stature. The plan also aims to deliver high quality academic programmes that are aligned with the community needs, attract prominent faculty, introduce and use latest learning technology, conduct community-oriented scientific research, and build constructive collaborative partnerships with corporate sector and top world universities.

One of the Ministry’s ultimate strategic goal is to provide National Authority for Scientific Research with the best means of success and excellence so as to enable it prepare a clear vision for scientific development and evolve a comprehensive system for research and invention.

The authority will evolve annual plans for scientific research and development, create competitive environment among scientists, ensure financial support for research projects and will monitor the progress in research projects. The authority will also forge deals with universities and research centres, will link the research projects with requirements of various institutions in the country, will create among the society an awareness about the importance of innovation and invention, develop cadre capable of conducting scientific researches and will coordinate with the government authorities for the protection of intellectual property rights.

POOL OF 80 UNIVERSITIES AND COLLEGES The Al Ain-based UAEU, which opened in the academic year 1977/78, continues to be the country’s flagship national institution of higher education and is committed to its role as the leading teaching and research institution in the UAE.

Today, the UAE is home to nearly 80 national and foreign universities and colleges.

NEW MAGNIFICENT CAMPUS FOR UAEU: The new massive UAEU campus features the most modern architecture, zones for specialized research centers, cutting edge IT network infrastructure, classrooms and labs that avail the latest equipment and instructional technology to enhance student learning, an expansive library offering vast physical and electronic resources, and two world class health clubs equipped with latest fitness equipment, two Olympic sized swimming pools, as well as tennis, basketball, and badminton courts.

Built on a 80,000 square metre of land and costing AED two billion, the campus of five main buildings accommodates up to 13,500 students.

As the UAE’s flagship university, UAEU offers a full range of accredited, high-quality graduate and undergraduate programs through nine Colleges: Business and Economics; Education; Engineering; Food and Agriculture; Humanities and Social Sciences; IT; Law; Medicine and Health Sciences; and Science.

UAEU’s academic programmes have been developed in partnership with employers, so graduates are in high demand. Over three decades, the UAEU has graduated 32 batches in a wide variety of programmes including more than 55,000 students. UAEU alumni hold key positions in industry, commerce, and government throughout the region.

COMMISSION FOR ACADEMIC ACREDITATION (CAA) The Commission for Academic Accreditation (CAA), the Federal Government’s Quality Assurance Agency charged with promoting educational excellence across diverse institutions of higher learning sector, was chosen as the seat of the Secretariat General of the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE) in recognition of its accurate and transparent commitment to and application of internationally-recognised standards and practices, according to a letter from INQAAHE to the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research.

INQAAHE includes over 200 member organisations active in the theory and practice of quality assurance in higher education.