1fefc4f35ea58210VgnVCM200000e66411acRCRDapproved/thenational/Articles/Migration/2009-Q4Generation next depends on today's choices0fefc4f35ea58210VgnVCM200000e66411ac____Generation next depends on today's choicesAfter nearly two decades of working in the school system, Mohammed Jumaa al Hosani is something of a rarity.<p>After nearly two decades of working in the school system, Mohammed Jumaa al Hosani is something of a rarity. The principal of Abu Dhabi Secondary School is one of the few Emirati men to have become a teacher. And Mr al Hosani also has a rare observation: for the benefit of the nation, that situation must change.
Education plays a critical role in national development as the UAE moves away from an oil-centred economy. Perhaps there is no question more important in our society than what role Emiratis will play, and the composition of the labour force in the years ahead.</p>
<p>In The National's five-part series that begins today, the merits of the Emiratisation programme - and its weaknesses in its current form - deserve a central position on the national stage. The starting point should be an acknowledgement of its necessity. Not only is it a basic issue of civic participation, but in the long run economic stability depends on citizens participating in and leading key industries.</p>
<p>To date, the most effective tool of Emiratisation has been a system of quotas requiring companies to hire nationals. Quotas have their place - it is important to guarantee a minimum presence of Emiratis in the private sector, for instance - but they are neither the only nor most desirable means of bringing Emiratis into the workforce.
The strong social safety net, including the high employment rate for Emiratis in the public sector, has sometimes proved to be a disincentive for young graduates. A recent survey issued by the Government found that only 11 per cent of Emiratis were even interested in private sector opportunities. On the other hand, there are perceptions in the private sector that some Emiratis do not perform at the same level as their expatriate colleagues.</p>
<p>These are generalities and stereotypes that should be taken with a grain of salt, but they need to be addressed nonetheless. Part of that process has to be confidence-building measures on both sides; that Emiratis will be given a fair opportunity in private companies and, once they are there, contribute the fullest of their potential.
As Mr al Hosani says, education is key. There are significant changes to the curriculum already underway that will better prepare pupils for the workforce, including English programmes and lessons focused on problem solving rather than rote memorisation.</p>
<p>The future of this next generation of Emiratis is indeed the future of the UAE; only with their participation and leadership will the country prosper. Now is the time to be laying the foundations of their future accomplishments.</p>