x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Pupils 'opt for wrong subjects'

Study finds too many Emirati pupils are choosing subjects in the arts and won't be able to fill gaps in the UAE job market.

Pupils at Al Mutaha Secondary School, including 17-year-old Eman Fathy, centre, were part of the 200 questioned for the study.
Pupils at Al Mutaha Secondary School, including 17-year-old Eman Fathy, centre, were part of the 200 questioned for the study.

ABU DHABI // A vast majority of young Emiratis are pursuing subjects in high school that will not qualify them to fill gaps in the job market, according to new research.

A survey of 200 public high school students in Abu Dhabi carried out by the Department of Economic Development found that 74 per cent had chosen arts subjects over science.

Dr Hala Saleh, a senior researcher at the Department of Economic Development (DED), said the study highlighted the mismatch of graduate skills and current labour market needs - namely, Emiratis qualified for careers in medicine, engineering or nuclear science.

"Students are more inclined towards arts because it is easier, while science programmes are hard and take longer to complete," said Ms Saleh.

She said the Government should offer incentives to push young Emiratis into medicine, pharmaceutical studies, engineering or nuclear and space sciences.

"Providing them scholarships for universities abroad to study these areas will secure their commitment to these careers as well," she said.

More than half of the students surveyed said the promise of a job on graduation would attract them to industries the government is promoting.

Mariam Siddiq Mansouri, principal of the Al Muntaha Secondary School in Abu Dhabi, said her school had started counselling students by introducing them to professionals from various fields. "We take them for university visits and bring in lecturers to encourage them and make them aware of other possibilities," she said.

Dr Saleh said the public school curriculum also needed to be aligned to incorporate new courses such as real estate management, nuclear engineering and semiconductor training. When questioned about their aspirations, 52 per cent of the pupils surveyed by DED said they would like to take up a government job, while only 30 per cent said they would like to further their education.

Reasons cited for wanting government jobs included good pay and fewer working hours.

Pupils also said they wanted Government jobs so they could follow in their parents' footsteps. "More than 74 per cent of the students' fathers work for the local or federal government which makes it more attractive for their children as well," said Dr Saleh.

Another reason given for the high number of pupils seeking jobs in the public sector was the perception that Emiratis were not welcome in private organisations.

"Long hours, less pay and an overall feeling that the private sector prefers an expatriate population deters them," Dr Saleh said. Of the students who wanted to work for the Government, 13.8 per cent said they would like a job in the media and 13.3 per cent wanted to work in financial services.

Shymaa Mohammed, a Grade 12 student at the Al Muntaha Secondary School, said: "My father works for the government and I would prefer it because it pays better."

aahmed@thenational.ae