UAE set for education shake-up

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UAE schools will be subject to regular evaluations with the results published to increase competitiveness and highlight sub-par performance under a suite of reforms to the country’s education sector.

Federal Cabinet, which is on a retreat focusing on education and health at Sir Bani Yas, has also endorsed a new teacher career development system to help attract quality candidates, including a program for “distinguished graduates”, and will launch a specialist training program for teachers.

It comes as a new report found the Middle East needed to invest in education in order to benefit from a “demographic windfall” as the region’s population grows.

In a statement reported by State news agency WAM, the UAE is set to offer both compulsory and optional subjects for students in order to “keep pace with the world's growing knowledge and rapid technological development”.

It will also cancel a preparatory year at universities by developing subjects at the secondary school level to match university requirements.

The statement said the evaluation system would also apply to public and private universities in the UAE as well as public and private kindergartens – “the cornerstone of education system” - with reports published periodically.

A licensing system for teachers “in accordance with the certified standards” would be introduced, while students would benefit from an academic guide to help them choose specialisations “in a way that matches the requirements of national economy”.

Prior to the Cabinet session, 65,000 public ideas and suggestions were received via social media platforms and the Prime Minister's website.

"Economic Insight: Middle East", which is produced by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), warned that while GDP growth was above the global average and expected to remain steady in the short term, oil prices would drop as global supplies increased.

It said while GCC governments had recognised the need to diversify away from oil, they faced a challenge in terms of skill shortages.

Strong population growth meant countries would be in a position to benefit from a “demographic windfall’ if they invested in education. However, a lower-skilled population would lead to rising unemployment and a drain on national resources.

“To compete in skills-intensive industries like engineering or financial services, economies need access to a highly-skilled workforce,” Peter Beynon, Regional Director, ICAEW Middle East, said.

“Currently, statistics suggest the GCC is lagging behind other developed economies in terms of education. This means firms are forced into buying in expertise from abroad, but in certain circumstances if they do not employ enough nationals they are fined.”

He added: “This could place them at a distinct disadvantage in competitive international markets. Investing in education to raise skill levels would be a long-term sustainable strategy that would help GCC countries to diversify whilst also helping nationals into the workforce.”

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