Since 1971, education in UAE has been a major priority aimed at preparing competent, reflective and highly committed students. Initially before the leadership of the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE populace involved itself in pearl diving, fishing, and date palm cultivation. Dramatic changes began with the advent of oil exploration that spurred economic development in the region especially with the adoption of first class infrastructure. Streams of foreign workers flocked into UAE while at the same time, schools, hospitals and roads were constructed in earnest. Over the past half century, the region has witnessed tremendous growth in development both socially and economically. On 5the same note, its infrastructure has tremendously improved.
Education in Abu Dhabi during the 1950’s was not that much developed and the a few students got their source of education from the Quran. It was not until growth and development in the education sector began begun when oil was rigorously explored. For instance, in 1962 major strides in educational development began to take shape. The number of students which stood at about 4000 in the 20 schools that were there started increasing as more schools were being constructed. The need to have more educated people in the country had grown very fast with an increased demand for skilled workers to be deployed in the development projects that were springing up due to oil (Darwish, 2009).
The strategy to have Emiratis work in the upcoming projects required that most of the people in UAE get educated. There was need to develop work experience programs and to teach them technical and English languages. In addition, there was urgency to train Emiratis to develop proficiency in bilingual skills and to give them a strong education background. This way the number of Emiratis workers in the development projects grew from its initial position of less than twenty percent which was low compared to the forty seven percent non-Arab foreigners and the thirty five percent non Emirati Arabs.
The current educational system in UAE is divided into four stages. These stages were developed in the 1970’s when the education system was still at its infancy stage. The four stages included Kindergarten, primary, preparatory and the secondary. These stages of education covered a period of years such as 4-5 years old for kindergarten,6-11 years old for primary school, 12-14 year old for preparatory and 15-17 year old for secondary schools. It is important to note that the number of students had grown significantly from four thousand in 1962 to 28000 in 1971 and the number of schools too had shot up from 20 that were mainly dominated by boys to 64.
Additionally, the government devised a strategy that would ensure all students who completed the preparatory stage and wished to continue with secondary were financed to go and study abroad. In UAE both private and government schools received enrolment of students with the latter enrolling up to 60% of the total student population. The large expatriate population of the UAE students went to the private schools. These schools were sponsored by non-governmental institution.
The government schools in UAE are supervised, overseen and funded by the Ministry of Education. The government ensures that it monitors and funds budgets for public and higher education. For instance, in 2006, education system in the UIAE was allocated up to about thirty seven percent of total funding in the budget. This allocation has increased significantly over the past years to 95% as observed in the budgets between1994 to 2003.
The government and other concerned bodies in UAE have made huge investment in the education sector. This is to ensure that the population that is rapidly growing receives high quality education. Students, both male and female from kindergarten to the university level receive comprehensive education from government school while those in the private sector are partly sponsored by the government to pursue extensive private higher education abroad. It is pertinent to note that the citizens of UAE study for free at all levels from kindergarten to the university.
The re-evaluation of the role of the government in education has revolutionized the education system in UAE since the 1970’s by improving the learning facilities as well as the learning environment of schools. For instance, privatization of education in Abu Dhabi is a priority area at the policy level. The role of government is to spearhead its effort through the Abu Dhabi educational Council which acts as the lead agent in education.
The education system in UAE has grown to a level that both the males ad the females are competing fairly for chances in higher education. Application for admission to higher levels of learning is not only done by the all the males. Female applicants estimated at about eighty percent also do make such applications to receive higher education abroad or in UAE. With this level of education, the students are prepared for to competently work in the 21 century either in the public or private sectors with emiratisation of the workforce. Today, the educational system in the UAE has developed rapidly and blossomed to a level where education can be accessed by everybody.
The government of the UAE has made it compulsory and that all the youth receive education at primary and secondary levels. This has been arranged in such a manner that it takes place within fourteen years with the kindergarten being the start and secondary the end point. Those wishing to further their studies carry on from there and they are sponsored freely by the government. The four-tier 14 years of compulsory education is further divided in 6he sense that the kindergarten is attended by the children of ages 4-5 and primary school follows with children of ages 6-11.
Children between the ages of 12-14 years attend preparatory schools and secondary school is attended by children of 15-17 years old. Additionally, the learning institutions have set strategies in place to ensure that the culture and the tradition of UAE has not been replaced or compromised by the growing education. Both Islamic principles and culture have been put in place such that by 2020, teachers will have fully acquired the right skills and competences to enable them be compatible with UAE education system.
The expatriate population makes 40% of students who attend private schools whereby they are taught foreign language so as to maintain the culture of the nation where each one of them comes from. In addition, the expatriate student pay fees if they wish to join the public schools. The development education and the education system in the emirates has been in the control of the Abu Dhabi based corporate body- the Abu-Dhabi Educational council (ADEC) that was incepted way back in 2005 by Sheikh Khalifa.
It works together with the Ministry of Education and formulates policies that work toward developing the education system under the general education policy. In addition, the ADEC has put measures in place to improve the quality of education in UAE. The running of public and private schools has be en given top priority as can be observed from a myriad of other organizations that have continually partnered education stakeholders in UAE. There are quite a number of areas where several educational improvement activities took place, such as adding extracurricular activities, introducing and improving information technology and updating the curricular. Other issues that the ADEC was concerned with were assessment of the teaching, administrative system, school facilities and so on.
The purpose for taking up this initiative was to enhance better terms of working for teachers alongside e creating other alternatives that may be paramou8nt in advancing their careers and performance at work. Additionally, ADEC assumed responsibility of evaluation and development of educational process and using its mandate it abolished payment of fees in the model schools and set new standards for admission (Sowa & De La Vega, 2008). This appears to be just one of the initiatives taken by UAE authorities mandated to run education affairs. Indeed, this is highly applauded in the sense that strict admission to schools is definitely one of the most viable tools that can be used by any government to oversee standards in learning institutions.
The private schools offer curriculum that ensures that certain cultures of students from different regions are maintained. However, there have been certain limitations in UAE education system that has affected the general performance and improvement of the students. In the general assessment, last year’s evaluation on the American curriculum indicated unsatisfactory AE teaching. The teaching standard was so low that and it affected the performance of most students.
It was noted by 2011 that twenty percent of the teaching standards in the Indian schools was unsatisfactory; twenty percent was rated by AE as good while fifty eight percent was rated as acceptable (Rachel , 2008). Generally, the performance of students that was affected by the teaching methods slightly improved to only eight percent of the lesson in 2011 as compared to 2010. However, the eight percent poor teaching practice affects the performance and the improvement of the student as the students relies on the material that they get form their teachers to perform.
The improvements from last year’s worse assessment results to this year’s slightly better improvement are owed to the involvement of the KHDA. It has come up with an inspection framework that ensures that the teaching methods and standards are improved. Facilities for teaching as well as the teaching environment and the training of teaching staff are appropriately if not perfectly done (Badri et al., 2006).
The inspection fr4amwork that has be en in place has been largely praised by parents as one of the sound steps taken by the UAE stakeholders in education in improving learning standards. The parents observe that the assessments and inspections have robbed the schools of complacency by closely scrutinizing their performance. However, in all this, the government schools are performing better in terms of the teaching methods and this make them to remain outstanding.
Furthermore, school drop out rate in UAE schools affect the students’ improvement and performance rate. The number of drop out among the female students is higher than the male students. Compared to other schools in the developed nations, UAE drop out rate currently stands at about twenty two percent with female drop out reaching up to fourteen percent (Rachel, 2008). According to the DSIB inspection done in the period between October 2009 and march2010, the drop out levels in the 2009 schools inspected witnessed private schools leading in the levels of drop outs.
The ratings in terms of school attendance in the private schools had 17 of the schools unsatisfactorily attended, 43 were well attended and only two schools had an outstanding attendance. On the other hand, among the 78 public schools that were inspected, three schools had an outstanding attendance, 37 schools showed acceptable while the remaining 17 schools had their attendance rated unsatisfactory. However, there were some schools that indicated an improvement in the level of student attendance in school. The parents were involved and showed great concern for the need for the students to improve in their level of attendance in school as this would improve their academic performance.
Moreover, most schools in UAE were not improving in terms of performance because of the tendency of the teaching staff to breach the teaching codes. The quality of education in 9 out of 10 schools in the UAE rated unacceptable according to the 2010 reports. The students are unable to access quality education in their respective curriculum as the teachers are in constant breach of teaching regulations. Most curricular lacked quality and the assessment of rankings were unacceptable with 17% for US curriculum, 12% for British curriculum schools and 18% for Indian curriculum schools. Most Arabic and Indian schools were affected and some were providing curriculum of other nations. This affected the performance and improvement of these schools greatly. For, instance, over 30 private schools were found to be offering curriculum for other countries like the US and Britain (Tairab, 2010).
Furthermore, most students lacked motivation and these affected their overall performance. The reports that were recently released indicated that most government school students were ill motivated and that other than affecting their performance, led to most of them dropping out of school. The rate of drop out is quite high in UAE. For those who cannot pass grade test, they are compelled to repeat classes. This is a demeaning factor especially among those students who feel that they should be promoted to the next level.
Besides, they are spending less time in school in a year compared to schools in other regions of the world. Their calendar falls short of international average. A case example is whereby the UAE school children have shorter school days compared to their counterparts in UK and Australia. On the same note, international standard of weekly school week is 27 hours but in Dubai, public schools have their school week for 23 hours only. Indeed, this is a reason for the poor performance and progress in these schools.
Absenteeism is another factor that is affecting the performance and the progress of many UAE schools. Widespread absenteeism has affected the running of schools by shortening tuition time period. Most students after doing their end term exams in June tend to neglect going to school and this increases the rate of absenteeism. Worse still, this can be attributed to insecurity in some areas (Rachel, 2008).
Reports highlight that many private schools lack protection for their students as they are exposed to low safety standards. This gives way to fear among the students and eventual absenteeism. Additionally, the standards of school buses are not that good since they do not guarantee safety and security for the students. However, reports indicate that since last year, a lot of strategic improvements have been put in place while the standards and services offered by the buses are better than before. They have been made available and safer for students to use (Tairab, 2010).
Furthermore, some private and public schools lack proper policies and procedures for health and safety of the students. The chairman of the KHDA observed that there is need for private and public schools to analyze the level of health services they offer to their students in case of an emergency. There is need to scrutinize schools and make improvements to ensure that health facilities are put within the schools to cater for the needs of the students. It is important to note that illness generally affects the attendance of students to school as well as putting the health of a student at risk.
Another factor that is affecting performance of schools in the region according to recent assessment is the schools environment which includes the teachers, curriculum and the buildings. A process has been begun by the ADEC and other partners to address the challenges by first assessing how the environment affects the students and educators’ performance. In addition, ADEC is developing and implement criteria that involve leadership, self confidence, and team work, analytical thinking and looking at how the environment affects the performance of the student.
Over the years, the government of the UAE has put education as a top priority. As much the education system in UAE has been demonstrating consistent progress over the years, concerned parties such as the federal government has be en up in arms to boost the standards. These efforts have been geared at ensuring that the quality of education is continually enhanced. As a result, several projects have been initiated that are progressively working towards providing education matching the world’s top education quality and standards. Additionally, the government is intending to deal with the issues that are affecting the performance and progress of schools, key among them being the challenge posed by the teaching staff. Reports from the Ministry of Education in 2008 indicated that a bigger percentage of the teachers who were teaching public schools in UAE were not qualified.
In fact, they lacked degrees which in most countries offering quality education system are a pre-requisite. Besides, there are more challenges affecting the performance of these schools and teachers such as lack of funds and resources teachers require for training so as to improve the quality of their work. It is agais t this reason that the government is highly obliged to introduce a licensing system for the teaching staff as one way of overseeing the requisite standards in education. This will ensure that there is a uniform standard of quality teaching in UAE schools. Hence, the overall performance and standards of UAE schools will greatly be enhanced through well set benchmarks that clearly target quality in comparison to other regions in the world (Badri et al., 2006).
As can be observed, it is pertinent to not only link the various sectors dealing with education but also develop a thorough understanding of the education system inn UAE in a way that it will be possible to assess the myriad of variables affecting learning system in the region. For instance, there is the civic understanding of the importance and holistic value of education. Unless the government in conjunction with the ministry of education craft a working approach by making sure that the entire UAE population is well conversant with the need of obtaining high quality education, the current initiatives in improving education standards as it is being pursued by stakeholders in education, may as well be in an exercise in futility.
As students pursue their various careers in life, it is worth to note that the education system in the wider of UAE may be in great jeopardy as observed in the literature review above. A greater and better link between the government and other key players in education sector is indeed paramount as part and parcel of resuscitating the system. Nonetn3lss, we may not completely overall the giant steps that have been made in the UAE education system in the last four decades. As much as there are evident loopholes, the underlying point of consideration is the fact that policy makers are charg3d with an one54rous duty of devising strategies that will see into it that high standards of education are maintained.
Badri, M. A. et al. (2006). The Baldrige Education Criteria for Performance Excellence Framework :Empirical test and validation. The International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management, 23(9), 1118-1157.
Darwish A.Y. (2009). Current status of operations research/management science education at the United Arab Emirates business schools. Education, Business and Society: Contemporary Middle Eastern Issues, 2(3), 191-202.
Rachel E. (2008). How to educate Dubai. International Financial Law Review. 20.
Sowa, P., & De La Vega, E. (2008). One Corner at a Time: Collaborating for Educational Change in the UAE. Childhood Education, 85(2), 102-106.
Tairab, H. (2010). Assessing Science Teachers’ Content Knowledge and confidence in teaching science: How Confident are UAE Prospective Elementary Science Teachers? International Journal of Applied Educational Studies, 7(1), 59-71.