Educators in the Emirates work hard to encourage young people to stay in school and earn a high school diploma. With dropout rates as high as 20 per cent in some areas, this is a significant challenge.
But one area of focus that seems to have received too little attention is in aiding young people who recognise their mistake a few years after they leave. For these people, sometimes well into their 20s, returning to the classroom may not always be practical. What they need is a system to help them earn the equivalent of a high school diploma, one that is recognised by potential employers.
Abdullah Al Hamadi, who left in school age 17 after losing interest in education, is a case in point. The Grade 10 dropout soon realised that finding a good job was nearly impossible without a diploma. Now 23, he pondered over his future and enrolled in a vocational institute, which he thought to be practical. Practical it was, except that the qualification was not recognised by the UAE's education authorities, so he had to enrol in adult education classes again this year, as The National reported.
Education and training are important to any modern, knowledge-based economy. And the UAE has been investing generously in this field not only by building local institutions, but by welcoming those of global repute. But that has brought challenges as well, such as the one highlighted by Mr Al Hamadi. There are many vocational institutes in the country that offer a range of courses. A qualification from an institution that imparts the right kind of skills should enable a student to find a job of his or her liking. But then, those that are not recognised by the Government and other global bodies are practically worthless.
One possible solution is to consider a system similar to the General Education Development, or GED, followed in the United States. Every year an estimated 750,000 high school dropouts try to improve their educational and employment prospects by taking the GED test, which is considered to be an equivalent of a high school diploma. The test is an opportunity for high school dropouts looking for a second chance.
But this is just one option; there are many others. In the end what's most important is that employers, be they in the private or public sector, recognise the value of a well-diversified workforce. For some people vocational and technical skills are more valuable than a course in English literature. Finding ways to harness their talents faster is in everybody's interest.