ABU DHABI // The biggest leap made by the education sector in recent years has been in the introduction of a National Qualifications Authority, says the executive director of the National Institute for Vocational Education in Dubai.
Dr Naji Al Mahdi said great strides had been made in vocational and technical education with the government opening up several specialised institutions and promoting practical learning methods.
Figures in previous years show one in four Emirati boys does not complete secondary school and is not enrolled in any form of education by the age of 25.
Experts agree that vocational training is the answer to stemming the drop-out rate and crucial to the development of a strong Emirati workforce.
While such vocational options are available not many are recognised, and the formation of a National Qualifications Authority means vocational courses will be assessed and counted for their value in the workplace.
Dr Al Mahdi said there also needs to be a better understanding of the skills required by the labour market. "Who has identified the skills required by the job market? They are unclear," said Dr Al Mahdi. "We need to identify the skills."
Despite the challenges, the country has managed to achieve progress in all levels of education over a very short time, Dr Al Mahdi said.
"If you go back 10 years and then look at the landscape today, there is a vast difference," said Dr Al Mahdi.
"It is much more regulated. Legislation has moved away from bureaucracy and is more meaningful with performance as an indicator.
"For the first time there are clear guidelines for the development of education based on benchmarks that are aligned to an international and European framework," he said.
"Once the Emirates' framework is implemented in full, the UAE will be able to jump 20 years ahead in just four to five years."
A greater push for research and better regulations at federal universities will help them compete at a global level, Dr Al Mahdi said.