x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

University rejections send a message of personal responsibility

It is better to learn the value of education before it is already too late.

My mother never finished college. She was a bright, enthusiastic and determined young woman at 19, but her family wanted to guarantee her future. That, at the time, meant finding her a suitable partner so that she could bear children. Education was not a priority, the family decided.

My mother didn't agree, but accepted what her family wanted for her. And she made a promise to herself that her children would all go to university and, if they chose, pursue higher degrees as well.

Being one of her children, and her eldest at that, I can never thank her enough for giving me life. She also taught me to appreciate that education is not only a privilege, and that what you do with it affects everyone around you. It's only when you get older, gain experience and, in my case, are expecting a child that you understand the values that your parents tried to instil.

For children, the idea of going to school isn't always appealing. There's homework, waking up early, unlikeable teachers and whatever other excuse comes to mind.

Lately, there have been many articles about Emiratis who drop out of university, and high school graduates with bad grades who have been rejected by university admissions. Many of these institutions cannot afford to spend money teaching entry-level students what they should have learnt in high school.

Most of these Emiratis are male. The rejection may come as a blow, but the alternative that they are being offered is vocational training centres and remedial schools.

If anything, I am all for these tougher standards. Universities should prepare you for life and the workplace, not prepare you for university itself.

These universities have worked hard to cater for students who should be ready for university. Guess what? Higher education at local universities is free for Emiratis. Our Government has done everything to support the higher-education system to develop the nation's educated and competent local workforce.

Why is it that our universities churn out high-achieving Emirati female graduates, but not as many Emirati male graduates of the same calibre? We need to understand the core issues why young men are dropping out of school or doing poorly before we reprimand them.

The responsibility of educating a child belongs to everyone. Until you can stand on your own two feet, you will always be considered a child. If I started talking about how many young men I know who took seven years to graduate with a bachelor's degree, I would never stop.

What prevents these young men from pushing themselves? The business world is extraordinarily competitive. Most of the world is recovering from recession and some economies are crumbling, yet the ideas we tell our children is that everything will be fine, and everything will be free. That is not what we should be teaching.

Nothing is free; everything should be earned. Education doesn't start or stop at school.

One of the things we fail to teach young people is to take responsibility for their actions. Because we are busy with work, life and everything in between, we compensate with money and materialistic things. It becomes an easy mindset to adopt.

Breaking a mindset should begin at home and continue at school from a young age as a collaboration of parents, extended families and school staff. By the time a student gets to university, he or she should be ready for anything.

When I was in university, I was given a monthly stipend and that was it: anything more had to be justified or earned on my own. Falling below a 3.0 GPA was out of the question - I would have been withdrawn.

Such ultimatums have to be clear. If anything given the dropout rates, boys and young men have to learn these lessons early. It is better to learn the value of education before it is already too late.


Aida Al Busaidy is a social affairs columnist and former co-host of a Dubai television show

On Twitter: @AidaAlB