x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Value of a course in reality

The Life: Many students in the UAE believes the UAE education system is lacking in opportunities for those who would like to have hands-on experience of life in the working world.

Students at the American University of Sharjah. UAE graduates face the prospect of furthering their education through training courses.Stephen Lock / The National
Students at the American University of Sharjah. UAE graduates face the prospect of furthering their education through training courses.Stephen Lock / The National

Farnoosh Rezapour is one of many in the UAE who believes the education system here did not prepare her for working life.

The 27-year-old Iranian, who now works as a TV producer, studied at the American University of Sharjah, where she completed a four-year degree in multimedia design. While she learnt much about her field, she says the course provided little practical information about the working environment.

"At university I learnt a lot about my subject, however I didn't learn how the industry actually works," she says. "Also the internship programme wasn't as useful as I would have hoped. The company at which I did it, a major broadcaster in Abu Dhabi, didn't take it seriously enough.

"I believe that students graduating now lack a real understanding of how to 'climb the ladder' in the workplace."

Ms Rezapour is not alone.

According to the recent Middle East Workplace Dynamics poll by the job site Bayt.com, more than one in five people living in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region believe their school and/or third-level education did not adequately prepare them for their careers.

This is considered a major impediment when it comes to competing with employees who have been educated abroad, the poll found. As a result, graduates are increasingly looking for ways to further their education through training courses both in the workplace and online, it claims.

"In total, 21.2 per cent of respondents state that lack of educational preparation is the biggest roadblock for career growth," says Suhail Masri, vice president of sales for Bayt.com. "Professionals should start seriously looking at other methods of gaining knowledge to stay relevant, whether through further education, online resources or training and workshops."

A further fifth of those polled in the survey of just under 10,000 people in 12 countries across the Mena region hope their next job will be with a company that helps them develop their skills and provides learning opportunities.

"Professionals are searching for opportunities where they can learn and grow, so training programmes in companies can help attract top-quality candidates," adds Mr Masri.

Peter Davos, the managing director of Carian College Advisors in Dubai agrees with Ms Rezapour that the quality of education in general in the UAE is lacking. He says that students who choose to study here are therefore at a disadvantage when it comes to working.

"Most students in the UAE attend class, complete their homework and take exams. That is the extent of their undergraduate experience," he says. "

This places them at a distinct disadvantage compared to those students that receive a comprehensive and holistic education required for today's workplace."

And it's not just the university experience that comes under fire. Ms Rezapour says at school, too, there was too much emphasis on learning facts and not enough practical information and personal attention given to students.

"In my opinion, teachers were not involved closely enough with the student's personal growth. Councillors, for example, did not exist in schools in my day," she says. "And parents had almost no involvement in their children's educational progress."

Ahmed Sayed is another Dubai resident who believes his UAE education has not served his career well. The 37-year-old now works in music and film production. He was raised and lives in Dubai and attended the Dubai International School.

"There was too much emphasis on academia and not enough on the arts," he comments. "There was no art, music or drama classes at my school for example. It's 20 years since I graduated, but I still believe there's not enough emphasis on the arts here in the UAE. The only way to deal with the problem is to attend courses or to teach yourself.

"I taught myself Photoshop and Final Cut Pro, which I now use for film editing. If you really want to learn how to do something you will, but you've got to be proactive."

Lack of both career guidance and advice about getting into the right university is also a problem at schools, adds Mr Davos. "There is a general lack of career guidance, but also college preparatory guidance. There's also too much emphasis on results and making sure the student is admitted to just any university, rather than encouraging the student to apply to a specific university."

However, it's not only education that employees blame for inhibiting career growth. According to the Bayt.com survey, almost 15 per cent blame bad managers and a further 15 per cent a bad economy.