x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

School drop out problem keeps Emiratisation from fully succeeding

“To ensure adequate motivation for Emiratis to continue education and pursue higher education qualifications, more companies have to start training and development programmes connected to diploma completion."

DUBAI // Teachers and employers have been urged to work more closely together to prepare young Emirati men for the jobs market.

Emiratisation efforts are being hampered because too few men finish secondary school or go on to university.

Companies have a responsibility to become involved in the process of continuing education, said Iba Masood, founder of the graduate recruitment website Gradberry.

“They are continuously hiring Emiratis throughout the year, and recruitment is only expected to increase,” she said.

“To ensure adequate motivation for Emiratis to continue education and pursue higher education qualifications, more companies have to start training and development programmes connected to diploma completion.”

She also called for government incentives, financial and otherwise, for Emiratis to continue their education.

Up to 15 per cent of Emirati boys drop out of secondary school and almost a quarter of Emirati men aged between 20 and 24 are school dropouts who will never return to education, a survey in 2011 suggested.

Flaws in the schools system contribute to the high drop-out rate, said Abdulmuttalib Al Hashimi, an Emiratisation expert with Next Level consultancy.

Putting pupils into either arts or science streams in Year 10 forces boys to focus on a possible career at too early an age, and the public school system’s rote learning often fails to engage and challenge boys, he said.

“There is also a disconnect between the education system and the job market requirements.

“Employers are now coming up with in-house programmes to visit schools, take students on summer jobs or work placements, which is a significant factor in encouraging students into continuing their education and making them understand the world of work.”

Culturally, the pressure on men to be the family breadwinner, to represent the family name well and to have and support their own families, remains a challenge, especially in rural areas.

“In some regions, doing 12 years of education and doing a further four years of higher education doesn’t make sense so that’s where you see a lot of males opt to drop out if they can see an alternative that pays well, or enough for them to get married, have a family and provide for that family,” Mr Al Hashimi said. “It’s always been an issue.”

He said it must be faced at schools and not only from a recruitment perspective.

“These are by no means things that can’t be addressed. The fact that we know and understand that these are issues means we can address them.”

Hamza Zaouli, managing director of Iris Executives, a specialist recruitment company in Emiratisation, said school drop outs are “by far the biggest challenge that the Emiratisation drive is facing right now.

“On one hand, we have Emirati boys dropping out of high school who are not interested in manual jobs, who often have a poor level of English. On the other hand, we have an economy that is moving forward with organisations that are more and more demanding a bachelor’s as a minimum degree.”

He said perceptions must change and boys must be prepared to do jobs that do not have high salaries.

“High schools must identify the students who are most likely to drop out earlier and direct them to a more vocational educational path, along with intensive English classes to keep up with the international economy,” Mr Zaouli said.

“In the meantime, schools are great influencers of their students’ mind set and expectations of the outside world. This is partly where their attitude towards the employment market will be defined and shaped.”

Schools also have a role to play in better preparing pupils for the working world.

“With schools, one of the things that we really regret is the sheer number of very poorly written CVs and very mediocre interviewing skills of high school drop outs. I think this is a great handicap that exacerbates the already challenging situation they are in. High schools must include career classes in their programme as compulsory,” he said.

However, employers’ attitudes are not helpful.

“Employers have to stop considering only ‘school-smart’ candidates but also leave some space for ‘street-smart’ Emiratis who are not necessarily good at school but can have more to offer than their bachelor-holding peers, if they could only get a chance to prove it.

“Many great men in history did not finish high school. Employers need to stop systematically hiring them at the lower end of the organisation. Quality recruitment comes down to the right fit, not to the right degree or experience. More job rotation would be a way for companies to identify better suitability.”

Mr Zaouli said national service might help.

“Their attitude and mind set will surely be positively affected during their national service and this will help them in terms of expectation and therefore in terms of positioning in the job market,” he said, giving them skills such as discipline and team work.

mswan@thenational.ae