x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Dropout rate is an issue for the community

Keeping students, particularly men, in the education system to the point where they meet their potential will require individualised solutions to suit each person.

The high dropout rate among male students at public schools in the UAE is a critical one that requires major changes both in policy and in society’s perceptions. As The National reported yesterday, Emiratisation efforts have been hindered by the large number of young men not finishing their secondary education or going on to higher studies.

One factor is that education is not a one-size-fits-all discipline. While many students, male and female, will respond well at school and progress on to university, some do not do well in that system – and that requires an education system with flexibility to cater to all learning styles and to ensure everyone is able to reach their potential.

Abdulmuttalib Al Hashimi, an Emiratisation expert with Next Level consultancy, told The National that flaws in the schools system, including the use of rote learning, play a major role in disengaging students and pushing them out of school. The pressure some young men feel to make money and prepare for marriage is also a factor. But how can education authorities address the issue?

A 2011 study by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority suggested three possible short- and long-term solutions based on international best practices. The first is to make the curricular and teaching styles more rigorous and engaging to male students. Then student-centred solutions should be introduced that provide individual support for students, such as an early warning system to identify students who require intervention and active support. The third solution is to involve everyone in the community in the issue.

One cultural change that must take place is the way many young men perceive education as simply a means to get a government job. If young men continue to see their connections as the best way to improve their career prospects, the rate of dropouts is likely to remain high.

Also, some students simply do not fit into academic life and suit a hands-on manual vocation. A career in the trades ought not to be looked down upon, as it often is now. Some excel in practical environments and, with their dented confidence regained, can go on to higher education.

What all this shows is the multifaceted nature of the drop-out rate, and the need for flexible and personalised solutions and the input of the whole community. Until then, some will continue to fall through the cracks.