UAE Country Report: Conclusions
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Healthy, dynamic educational systems evolve around developments in employment, society and economy. The stakeholders we consulted in the UAE were vocal on how education within their country should change to reflect the prevailing economic and employment situation. The conclusions in this section reflect some of the key issues and challenges facing the UAE today.
There is a sense that the UAE is playing catch-up in many ways. The region is very much engaged in the global skills race but is currently ill-prepared to meet its own rapidly growing needs.
The model employed until now - that of importing the skills businesses need - has successfully fuelled growth. But this is becoming unsustainable as the competition for skills increases and the cost of living soars.
The willingness of business to fund skills development is clear, though this may be down to necessity rather than will. The key challenge is for government to develop clearer strategies to support long-term education objectives. And, in doing so, they can engage more with business and industry.
Part of this strategy should be to link education and training content and providers to an assessment framework, and to develop clearer guidelines around accreditation. Without addressing quality assurance, businesses and educational institutions will waste money on ill-conceived or badly delivered education, and the skills gaps will continue to widen.
The quality of educators and trainers needs to be improved. The value of a good teacher cannot be overstated but it is often overlooked when governments and businesses address the issues of education and skills.
There should be better training for in-house trainers and more emphasis on the development and recruitment of great teachers. There should also be better use of the skills, experience and personality of senior figures within an organisation. Empowering business leaders to assume greater responsibility for the training of their own people will be positive for all involved. Inspirational leaders, who are passionate about their business, can often communicate better than anyone else the values they expect from their employees and the behaviours required for them to succeed within that company culture.
There is potentially a huge opportunity to create a new educational concept in the UAE. It has the resources, the business environment and, increasingly, the infrastructure. It also has a relatively small population, which means progress could be made quickly if the right vision is defined and supported.
Crucially, any new vision must be based around mutual engagement between business and education. Beyond that, there needs to be improved mechanisms for bringing businesses together, and less isolation when private institutions design and deliver their own professional education provision.
If the government demonstrates its commitment and vision to improving professional education, this could act as a catalyst for greater engagement between businesses. Businesses will come on-board if they see the value of being part of a wider solution. But they will continue to work in isolation if public education programmes remain disconnected from the realities of industry.