Tens of thousands of dirhams are on offer as part of an effort to improve educational standards. The Emirates Foundation plans to award grants of up to Dh90,000 (US$24,500) for one-year research projects that examine ways of bettering the education system. The research proposals must be led by, or include a significant contribution from, Emiratis. Peter Cleaves, the foundation's chief executive, said: "The Emirates Foundation sees this grant programme as an essential means of providing strong research experiences for education students and academic researchers.
"In addition it will increase the actionable, empirical data available to key stakeholders within the UAE." People such as teachers, parents, students and policymakers should be able to make use of the information generated by the projects. In a separate initiative to promote Emirati talent, 20 students have won places on the Bidaya education and leadership scheme. Those selected will have their university tuition paid and receive a modest living allowance. The students will also be assigned mentors with professional experience in their areas of study.
Skills development workshops with internationally recognised experts are also planned. Edward de Bono, the writer and creative thinker, was a guest lecturer last year. The programme, which is in its second year and is sponsored by Zabeel Investments and Nakheel, selects candidates on the basis of their academic ability, character and ambition. Mohamed al Suwaidi, the Bidaya programme manager, said he was "very impressed" by the calibre of the students who had applied. A total of 125 applied and of those selected, 14 were female.
"We had some tough decisions to make during the selection process. All the students had many individual merits and we were pleased to see the diverse subjects that these talented Emiratis plan to study," he said. Successful candidates will study subjects such as dentistry, interior design, accounting, computer science, paediatrics and marketing. They will attend the American University in Dubai, the American University of Sharjah and the University of Sharjah.
Amina Taher, from Zabeel Investments and a founder of Bidaya, said the programme made "a long-term investment" in the students who were chosen. "We want to bridge the gap between government schools, university and the workforce," she said. "The programme is designed to encourage UAE nationals to develop skills and experience. We believe that in order to develop the leaders of tomorrow, you have to give them the best possible start in life."