The United Arab Emirates started focusing on building a modern, mass-scale education system after its independence from Britain in 1971. In the past 50 years, the country revolutionized its education system aligning itself both with a modern and Western approach. Below are eight facts about education in the United Arab Emirates.
8 Facts About Education in the United Arab Emirates
- The UAE achieved universal education which was part of its ‘Education for All’ initiative, thus focusing on a new challenge for its UAE Vision 2021, that is, quality education. Its primary goal is to create a ‘first-rate education system,’ intended to enable students in the UAE to rank among the best in the world in the fields of mathematics, reading and science. To achieve this, the government proposes a transformation of the education system and intends to use Smart systems and devices as a basis for new teaching methods. In doing so, the UAE aligns its own national agenda to the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, aiming to achieve quality education as its Target 4.
- The UAE now focuses on ways to develop the economy outside the hydrocarbons sector and sees education as the key to do so. The core mission of the Ministry of Education’s Strategic Plan 2017-2021 is to develop an education system adapted to generate a high-skilled and knowledge-based competitive economy. The founding father of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, stated that the “greatest use that can be made of wealth is to invest it in creating generations of educated and trained people… [T]he prosperity and success of the people are measured by the standard of their education”.
- Literacy is a powerful tool against poverty, and the literacy rate in the UAE has increased from 54 percent among adult men and 31 percent among adult women in 1975 to almost 95 percent for both genders in 2019. Besides this considerable improvement, the government is now working on increasing the inclusivity of the education system to migrant workers too, in order to further close the wealth gap in the UAE.
- The education system in the UAE comprises both private and public education. Public education, from primary school through university, is free for all Emirati citizens and is entirely funded by the government. The primary language of instruction is Arabic and English is often taught as a secondary language. Public school enrollment is also accessible to non-UAE citizens, provided they pay a tuition fee, however, only 26 percent of the total enrolled students in the UAE are enrolled in public schools.
- Approximately 74 percent of students are enrolled in private schools, representing a huge part of the education system. This is mostly due to the transient nature of the expatriate population that opts for international schools. There is an increasing demand for private-sector education in the UAE, and according to the Boston Consulting Group, there is an expected growth in the education market from $4.4 billion in 2017 to over $7 billion by 2023.
- The UAE aims to improve considerably its tertiary education system in order to retain a higher number of Emirati citizens in enrolling in tertiary degrees, as well as attract students from abroad. The UAE has an extremely high outbound student mobility ratio, as 7.1 percent of UAE nationals enrolled in tertiary degrees abroad in 2016. Moreover, its inbound mobility ratio is one of the highest in the world, attaining 48.6 percent in 2016.
- The UAE emphasizes the importance of inclusiveness and quality education for all and has signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Optional Protocol in 2006. The government strongly supports people with disabilities/special needs and has included federal laws to protect the rights of people with special, guaranteeing equal education opportunities. In addition, the UAE aims to increase the inclusiveness of special needs children in mainstream educational environments, through various initiatives and as a part of its 2020 agenda.
- In 2019, the UAE allocated a $2.79 billion budget to Education, representing 17 percent of its total federal budget. A part of it will go towards the establishment of an Education Support Fund to incentivize partnerships and involvement with the private sector, in order to achieve its upcoming goals and priorities.
These eight facts about education in the United Arab Emirates illustrate the achievements and progress made in the country’s education system and highlights the ambitious aims and goals the UAE has for the future.
– Andrea Duleux