x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Experts urge Indian education link-ups to train nurses

Subcontinent could help to train UAE's nurses, summit hears.

ABU DHABI // The critical shortage of Emirati nurses and paramedics could be solved by a partnership with Indian educators, an expert says.

Dr Tayeb Al Kamali, the vice chancellor of the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT), says Emiratis represent only 5 per cent of the nursing and paramedic staff in the country.

"There is a worldwide shortage of nursing and paramedic staff, and it is evident in the UAE," Dr Al Kamali said.

"We would like to partner with India in this niche market to develop the workforce in that field."

He was speaking yesterday at the third Arab-India Partnership Conference hosted in the capital by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Indian ministry of external affairs and the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

HCT has one of the country's three nursing schools. Since 2010, it has been trying new ways to address a shortage of Emiratis in the profession.

Also on hand to discuss the topic of higher education and skill development were Isam Zabalawi, the former Jordanian minister of higher education and scientific research; and Dr Shaikha Al Shamsi, the former assistant undersecretary at the Ministry of Education who now teaches economics at UAE University.

All three agreed a significant gap exists between needs in the workplace and education provided.

"The kind of graduates we need now differ vastly from what was being taught a few years back," Dr Al Kamali said.

Dr Al Shamsi said an overhaul of the education system was needed.

"Abu Dhabi's 2030 vision shows a Dh30 billion investment in the steel industry," she said. "However, we need to develop the labour force and we need partnerships."

Dr Al Shamsi noted that India is a global leader in the steel industry and the UAE needs to for a partnership with it to develop its workforce with the required skills.

Mr Zabalawi echoed Dr Al Shamsi's sentiments, saying the entire Arab world need to overhaul its approach to skills development.

"Many universities across the Arab World are proud of their graduates. However we are still importing foreign education," he said.

"We have many colleges from overseas in various Arab countries yet we do not have any Arab universities overseas."

The skills needed for employment are changing rapidly and education needs to respond in kind, Mr Al Zabalawi said.

"The concept of teaching has to be changed to learning, and research has to be changed to innovation," he said.

"For this to happen, universities have to have independence, revised admission policies and double the government funding they receive."

But the problem may extend further than university stage. Dr Al Shamsi said 70 per cent of state school students still chose subjects in the arts stream over those in the science stream.

"Since 1990, the Ministry of Education has been working on solutions to increase science-based students but in my opinion further reform is needed," she said.

"In 2008, Abu Dhabi implemented model schools and technology schools, which have been successful.

"I think we need to implement this on a wider scale."

amustafa@thenational.ae