'Stem is the new direction for the country and now all of the higher education institutions are aligning their academic programmes to fit into that direction.'
Universities aim to increase Emirati interest in teaching programmes
If recent enrolment data from two of the country’s three federal universities is any indication, Emirati men have very little to no interest in becoming schoolteachers.
Not one male student enrolled for Zayed University’s Bachelor of Science in Education programme last year, while just 11 signed up to study at the United Arab Emirates University’s College of Education.
Both universities are taking steps to increase the number of students — male and female — who register for their teaching programmes to help meet the country’s growing need for national educators.
“This is an international phenomenon, it is not limited to the UAE,” UAEU Vice Chancellor, Prof Mohamed Albaili, said of the challenges of recruiting male students for teaching degrees. “The government is aware of this issue, this challenge, and trying to accommodate and deal with this issue by providing male students opportunities and incentives to join education sector in general.”
UAEU has teamed up with the Ministry of Education and the Abu Dhabi Education Council to train 120 non-Emirati students to become teachers beginning this month. The programme was open to expatriate high school graduates across the country who were born and raised in the UAE and maintained a minimum 95 per cent average. Prof Albaili said more than 500 applicants applied to enter the programme.
“We feel that they are a part of the country — they know the culture, they know everything,” said Prof Albaili. “Since they were born here, they consider this country as their country. So we are trying to provide them with some job opportunities and quality education to pursue their education here and graduate and join the education sector in the future as teachers.”
Zayed University Vice President, Prof. Reyadh AlMehaideb, said convincing young Emirati men to accept a teacher’s salary is a hard sell.
“The main reason is the compensation is not competitive in the education field still,” said Prof AlMehaideb. “Unless that changes, we will always have hard time getting men to go into the education area. Some of them would like to go, but the percentage is very small.”
Zayed University currently offers a Bachelor of Science in Education, Master in Education and a Master of Science in Teaching and Learning.
The university is working on developing a new undergraduate programme called integrated science teacher to meet the nation’s demand for teachers and science professionals.
“The nation actually requires more science teachers in the schools,” said Prof AlMehaideb.
Both ZU and UAEU also have plans in the works to expand programming related to science, technology, engineering and maths (stem).
“Stem is the new direction for the country and now all of the higher education institutions are aligning their academic programmes to fit into that direction,” said UAEU’s Prof Albaili. “Even in the humanities and social sciences, we are introducing new topics related to the fourth industrial revolution, such as artificial intelligence, big data, data analytics, coding and other subjects that also fit in that stem model. So this is one of the strategic directions now of the university, to promote stem model.”