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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Let failing Emirati pupils fail so they may eventually succeed, say education experts 

'We know first hand that Emiratis want to work hard' says Emiratisation headhunter Hamza Zaouali

Moneer Moukaddem's research focuses on how some private school teachers appear to write off Emirati pupils in particular. Antonie Robertson / The National
Moneer Moukaddem's research focuses on how some private school teachers appear to write off Emirati pupils in particular. Antonie Robertson / The National

Allowing low achievers to fail could help Emiratis reach new heights, experts said of a study tackling a notion that UAE nationals do not work hard.

Speaking at a three-day education summit in Ras Al Khaimah on Monday, where the study was presented, experts said the bias exists in both in the teaching community and in the job market.

They said some employers are under the impression that Emirati students do not strive for excellence in school and university and will not give their 100 per cent when employed.

Hamza Zaouali, head of Iris Executives, a recruiter specialising in Emiratisation, said it was not uncommon to hear comments that Emiratis would not work as hard as non-nationals.

“There is a clear misconception indeed. As a headhunting firm solely specialising the Emiratisation market, we know first-hand that this can't be further from the truth,” he said.

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“It would be too easy and simplistic to say that the problem of non-performing Emiratis is their attitude. A person’s attitude is influenced by their background and environment. So it is critical that we look into the environments we are creating and promoting in our organisations whether educational or professional.”

Mr Zaouali said his firm seldom struggled to find quality Emirati profiles, but asked educational institutions and organisations to think about how to raise the standard for low performers.

“I do not believe that an environment where you can't ‘lose’ can induce sustainable success and release people's full potential. If you're in a school system where you can't really fail or if you're in a job where you can't really be terminated for low performance or attendance, then how can we expect some Emiratis to care enough and to develop grit?

“Employers, private and Government, and education professionals should consider allowing low performers to fail, for their own good. Not taking things for granted pushes people to constantly get out of their comfort zone and reach out to new heights.”

School inspections have begun identifying the number of Emiratis in private schools and their progress.

The UAE government has also repeatedly encouraged locals to apply for jobs in the private sector.

Moneer Moukaddem outlined alternatives for how to bridge the gap in a book based on the provocatively-titled study: It’s Useless. They’re Emirati: Exploring Teacher Perceptions of Emirati Student Attainment in UAE Private School to be released later this month.

“The government has a clear vision and is taking steps to monitor the attainment of Emirati students. Teachers also adapt teaching styles and references to get the lesson going.

I’m not saying we want Emirati students just to get higher grades. I’m saying 10-15 years down the line if this problem is ignored it will have potentially drastic implications on Emirati society and this is a real issue especially with Emirati males,” said Mr Moukaddem, a researcher with Nottingham University who works in a senior position at an Abu Dhabi private school.

“It is a potential social disaster if you have a big part of the population not educated and not interested in competing in the job market. We need honesty to address these issues.”

Research also links high literacy rates with improved health, low crime rate and social cohesion.

Teachers have previously voiced frustration regarding poor academic performance from some pupils who believe their nationality will ensure them jobs and upward mobility regardless of school results.

“This is where cultural competency comes in because we need to find motivational triggers from within their frame of reference,” Mr Moukaddem said.

“If teachers say, ‘Pay attention, do well in this exam so you can get into a good university and get a good job.’ It doesn’t work in this context. But tell pupil to concentrate and you will call their father with a positive phone call, then they will be motivated. This is because they are being promised a reward as against, ‘Listen to me now because in 10 years you will get accepted to a university.’ It’s about having a more flexible approach to culture.”