x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Boys more likely to drop out of school than girls, Abu Dhabi study finds

Teachers have a major role to play in keeping pupils’ interest alive.

A new report by the Statistics Centre–Abu Dhabi (Scad) offers fresh evidence that dropping out of school is much more common for boys than for girls.

The report shows that 9,231 boys advanced from primary school to high school in the emirate in the 2010-11 academic year.

That represents an attrition rate of 2.8 per cent between the two levels of education.

At the same time, 9,156 girls advanced, and their dropout rate was negligible.

In absolute numbers, the size of the 2010-11 cohort – 18,387 students entering secondary school – was down from the year before, when 18,358 pupils advanced to the next stage.

But it is the difference between the genders that concerns experts on education policy.

“Male school dropouts continue to be a problem that policymakers should address not just in Abu Dhabi but across the UAE,” said Dr Natasha Ridge, executive director at the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research in Ras Al Khaimah.

“Recent moves to make education compulsory up to Grade 12 will clearly address this issue,” she said.

Ms Ridge, who has spent several years researching secondary education in the GCC, estimates an average dropout rate of “10 to 15 per cent” across the country for males in secondary schools.

Schools must focus heavily on improving the quality of teaching to curb this, she said.

“We found teachers play a huge role in whether students have an enjoyable experience and stay on in school. It is important to pay more attention to teacher quality and the style and way in which teaching goes on in government schools,” said Ms Ridge.

In a recent study, Samara Farah, another researcher from the Al Qasimi Foundation, found even higher male attrition rates between secondary and tertiary education, “where a larger percentage of females choose to continue their studies, while most males are lured by the high economic incentives of the labour market”.

Essam Al Murawwi, an Emirati engineer, said he knew of many boys who dropped out because they want to support their families financially. “It is also possible they don’t have anyone in their family who has completed their studies, so they do the same. But most of them, when they become mature, they go back to school.”

But with more companies seeking skilled graduates, Mr Al Murawwi said it was becoming more important to finish school.
Khalood Yusuf Juma, who recently finished her studies at Dubai Women’s College, said she believed some of her peers opted for marriage over education.

“It is a traditional, conservative idea to get married and stay at home,” said Ms Juma. “They think it is not as important for girls to study as for boys.”

Ms Juma takes a different view.

“We are a developed country and it is important for people to study.”

pkannan@thenational.ae