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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 January 2019

UAE gives its students skills for the future

By embracing the challenges that lie ahead, the UAE equips young people for success

Electrical engineering students at the American University of Sharjah. Pawan Singh / The National
Electrical engineering students at the American University of Sharjah. Pawan Singh / The National

For school pupils facing a bewildering array of career options, choosing a degree course can feel like a gamble. By the time they have finished studying, will there be any demand for the subject to which they are considering committing the next three or more years of their lives? In the UAE, however, the odds on making the right choice are appreciably improved by the Ministry of Education’s annual Majors in Demand study.

This year’s document, which reflects the experiences of more than 13,000 graduates, shows that engineering, IT and business were most in demand among those who graduated in 2017. In helping students to make good choices about their futures, and equipping schools with the hard evidence they need to guide their charges down the right path, the study is a vital component in the UAE’s strategy of transforming itself into a post-oil knowledge economy. As Ahmad Al Falasi, the Minister for Higher Education, says, equipping tomorrow’s workforce with the right skills and knowledge is essential if the country is to move from importing knowledge to creating it.

The study is one among many initiatives devoted to this vital national objective. Only this week, Dubai unveiled plans to establish free zones alongside universities, with the aim of encouraging students to focus on practical research that leads to business ideas and the creation of companies and jobs. On Tuesday, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, launched the National Experts Programme, under which talented Emiratis will be mentored to become experts in fields key to the nation’s future prosperity.

Of course, not every child wants to become an accountant, engineer or business leader. Individual dreams must not be pushed aside in the drive to establish national priorities, and students should not be shoehorned into careers solely because they are deemed to be in the best interests of society. This is why parallel projects such as Dubai’s new five-year plan to transform the emirate into a global cultural hotspot, partly by supporting artists in all fields to work full time in the arts, are also to be welcomed. Mathematics and science are only part of the historic legacy gifted to the world by Arab civilisation, which has also left a proud cultural heritage.

There is little doubt that tomorrow’s Emiratis will be equipped with the technical skills necessary for their country to play a leading role on the global stage. But the value of art and culture in helping tomorrow’s citizens of the UAE to live enriched, well-rounded lives, must not be underestimated.

Updated: January 10, 2019 06:29 PM

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