x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Careers counselling to lower school dropout rate

Guidance initiative aims to motivate young Emiratis to strive for professional positions.

DUBAI // Pupils in public schools will receive career counselling as part of a Government effort to lower school dropout rates and develop a highly-skilled Emirati workforce, the Minister of Education said yesterday.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Gulf Education Forum in Dubai, Minister Humaid Mohammed Obaid al Qattami said the education department would join with the private sector to provide career information to high schools students in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.

"The major obstacle we are facing today in becoming a knowledge economy is the absence of student guidance," said Mr al Qattami.

"We are aiming to overcome this with different agreements with the industry and higher education to open up career opportunities for students."

According to the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), the dropout rate is more than 21 per cent in Dubai schools. The phenomenon is more common among boys, who drop out after Grade 10 due to repeated failure or lucrative job offers.

The most recent figures from the Ministry of Education place the male dropout rate at between seven and 10 per cent.

Mr al Qattami said the school system needed to develop students' skills for employability, with a focus on science and technology, to reduce the economy's dependence on oil.

The career counselling initiative will invite experts from various industries to hold sessions at schools to inform students about different professions and the path they need to take to succeed.

For example, the Ministry of Education has teamed up with Emirates Airline to introduce students to the idea of working in the aviation industry.

The airline signed a three-year agreement with the ministry yesterday and committed itself to visiting schools in Dubai and the Northern Emirates to talk about pilot training, engineering and IT jobs, said Capt Nabil al Boom.

"We want to encourage the youth to join the national pilot programme," said Capt al Boom.

"We are looking for as many qualified Emiratis as possible to attain our Emiratisation goal as well."

He said the company wants a 45 per cent national workforce within the next two years.

However, he said students need to work hard to attain a position with the company. "There are prerequisites, like a high school degree and a good English language score."

Career counselling will push students to work harder and aspire for better jobs said Ali Maihad al Suwaidi, the director general of the Ministry of Education.

"The objective is to make students aware of the jobs available in the labour market and for them to make conscious choices about their academic and professional future."

Apart from Emirates Airline, the Ministry of Education has also partnered with Zayed University and the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority.

Dr Sulaiman al Jassim, the vice president of Zayed University, said encouraging students to complete their high school degree and join universities needs to be a collaborative effort.

"We have formed a committee with the Ministry of Education to address the problem and motivate students to stay in school," he said.

Rema Menon, the director of an education counselling facility in Dubai called Counselling Point, said career guidance in public schools was long overdue.

"A lack of information about options often forces students to take up courses they have little or no interest in," she said. "Such students are disheartened and confused and drop out."

Ms Menon said the dropout rate was a huge burden on the economy.

"Career choices need to be based on self-understanding, interests, personality and aptitude, among a host of other factors," she said.

aahmed@thenational.ae