REFORM INITIATIVE IN EDUCATION UAE 9
ReformInitiative in Education UAE
ReformInitiative in Education UAE
Theimportance of education in any part of the world cannot be gainsaidas far as the success of an individual and quality of life that he orshe leads is concerned. Indeed, education is crafted in such a waythat it would allow an individual to exist in almost every part ofthe globe without necessarily having been brought up in the same.Scholars have also acknowledged that there is a positive correlationbetween the level of education of an individual and the quality oflife that he or she leads. This has necessitated that individualspursue the highest levels of education possible in an effort tosafeguard their futures in the globe. It is noteworthy, however, thateducation is always dynamic just as the world is. Indeed, it has tobe crafted in such a way that it would allow for the tackling ofchallenges that come in the lives of individuals, which also changeby the day (Forstenlechner & Rutledge, 2010). This is the casefor the education systems in the UAE, which has been and needs toalways re-align itself to allow for its applicability in the currentworld.
Likein other parts of the globe, the UAE educational system faces quite anumber of challenges. These are particularly with regard to itscomposition and what is done to ensure proper representation. One ofthe key issues plaguing the UAE education systems is the deficiencyof women in engineering courses in the universities. This isirrespective of the rapid growth of the higher education sector inthe region since the country’s establishment more than 40 yearsago, where 70 institutions of higher education have been licensed.Currently, women account for about 65 percent of the total number ofUniversity graduates in the country. Unfortunately, in spite f theefforts undertaken by the UAE government towards the provision ofemployment opportunities for women, the total number of femalegraduates that have been taking up engineering as their career choiceremains considerably low in comparison to other non-engineeringfields. For instance, in the largest public university in thecountry, the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) femaleengineering students accounted for around 3 percent of the entirepopulation of University graduates from the period ranging from1980-2009. As expected the growth rate for female students’enrolment in the engineering fields has been increasing in spite ofthe fact that their overall rate remains considerably low.
Therehave been numerous factors that may have contributed to the low ratesof enrolment for female students in engineering fields. First, it hasbeen well acknowledged that women are deemed to be poor performers inmathematics and sciences. Studies have shown that individual interestin mathematics and sciences such as physics plays a key role and is astrong factor connecting female students to the decision to undertakeengineering as a career of choice. Students, be they male or female,who think they perform exemplarily in mathematics have a highlikelihood for studying engineering (Bettinger & Long, 2005).Unfortunately, it has been the case that female students have beenbrought up to believe that they are less intellectually endowed asfar as the capacity to tackle “tough” courses and subjects suchas mathematics is concerned. This has served as a discouragement totheir efforts, incentive and motivation to pursue courses thatnecessitate exemplary performance in mathematics and sciences, withengineering being one of them. In addition, scholars have underlinedthe fact that the academic environments have been less thanencouraging for women to undertake engineering lessons. Indeed, it iswell acknowledged that women tend to be more successful in singlegender educational environments compared to the mixed genderenvironments (Forstenlechner & Rutledge, 2010). The single gendereducational environments seem to offer female students a distinctivesocial environment where they have the capacity to move beyond thepredisposing stereotypical career expectations. Indeed, it isnoteworthy that the competitiveness coupled with deficiency of maleintimidation in such single gender educational environments offersfemale students the requisite confidence, as well as empowermentnecessary for the selection of non-conventional post-secondaryeducational routes such as engineering. Moreover, the elementaryschools provide considerably insufficient information regarding thecourses that individuals can pursue. It has been well acknowledgedthat individuals have their ideas pertaining to future careerscemented at a considerably young age. This is primarily based on theinformation that they have on what is required. In essence, it isimportant that elementary schools provide information pertaining tothe career choices and what they entail alongside encouragingindividuals of all types to pursue them rather than being afraid ofthem.
Onthe same note, research has persistently indicated that femalestudents in single-gender academic institutions incorporate highercareer aspirations compared to those that are in co-educationalinstitutions (Tully & Jacobs, 2010). Further, female students arelimited in their attainment of higher educational goals and theselection of non-conventional career paths by gender roles. As notedearlier, many societies have propagated the notion that females areless intellectually endowed than their male counterparts, in whichcase they only undertake courses and careers that are seen as lessdemanding and less masculine (Tully & Jacobs, 2010).Unfortunately, this has been worsened by the deficiency of femalerole models in the same fields, as well as the lack of societalsupport for female students who choose to pursue this educationalcourse. The deficiency of female role models in the field has servedas a reinforcement to the widely held stereotypes regarding theintellectual capabilities of females and their capacity to tacklecertain problems and compete with their male counterparts in thefield.
Needlessto say, the deficiency of women taking up engineering or even scienceand technology education (STE) is detrimental to the economy.Research has perfectly demonstrated that girls perform better thantheir male counterparts at the secondary level of education, yet theymake up a minority of the total workforce. This underlines the factthat there exists an untapped pool of talent within the labor force(Tully & Jacobs, 2010). On the same note, studies havedemonstrated that there exists strong economic benefits to be derivedfrom a diverse workforce, as well as a direct connection betweenenhanced female labor participation and economic development (Godwin,2006). In essence, the deficiency of the participation of women in afundamental facet of the labor such as engineering and STE impliesthat the country is yet to capture a Return on Investment fromeducating women, in which case it does not maximize the utility ofits leadership, economic and intellectual potential for more thanhalf its population (Godwin, 2006). Nevertheless, varied strategiescan be utilized in enhancing the presence of women in the fields.
First,scholars have underlined the necessity for the industry and thegovernment at large to encourage and assist women to get into theengineering and STE field. Indeed, it is perfectly noted that theengagement of a women in the engineering and STE education, coupledwith the simultaneous provision of employment opportunities in thesame would not only enhance the enrolment of female students in thefields but also increase the knowledge base of the country, alongsideits competitive advantage and innovation capabilities that play acrucial role in improving the country’s economy (Gallant &Pounder, 2008). Indeed, a local economy that has stronger technicaland scientific knowledge would, with no doubt, be better equipped toassess the contemporary society’s engineering, as well as scienceand technology within its own cultural context, thereby contributeto the customization of such knowledge to suit the environment andenhance the process of innovation (Bettinger & Long, 2005). It isnoteworthy that a low supply of national high-caliber graduates inthe engineering and STE fields would be a hindrance to the process ofeconomic transition and exert more pressure on the government, aswell as UAE based firms to seek and compete for talent in the globallabor market (Gallant & Pounder, 2008). It is imperative thatwomen are no longer seen as passive recipients of science andtechnology and instead be equipped with the appropriate attitudes,knowledge and skills, as well as provided with opportunities andencouragement for participation in the engineering and STE fields ofeducation and employment.
Further,it is imperative that a campaign to sensitize the society and femalestudents in pre-university academic institutions is held. As notedearlier, part of the reason for low enrolment is the deficiency ofrole models in the field, which makes a large number of people makethe assumption that there exists no open opportunities for women inthe field. In this regard, a Canadian higher education institutionkicked off a campaign that would motivate female students to selectengineering through demonstrating the fact that engineering was apossible career for consideration (Forstenlechner & Rutledge,2010). Female students, in this regard, are educated about therewards and challenges of engineering, with the awareness resultingin an increase in the enrolment of women in the field, particularlyfor the individuals who take part in the workshop or campaign. Such acampaign would be coupled with depiction of women already in thefield, who could act as role models (Bettinger & Long, 2005).Fortunately for the United Arab Emirates, the labor laws are insupport of equal employment and pay for all women with the country’sfounding president having stressed the importance of providing womenwith opportunities for traveling abroad so as to pursue highereducation, as well as assume managerial roles in the varied publicand private institutions.
Inthis regard, it is imperative that workshops aimed at ensuringawareness of what the engineering and science courses entail must beheld at the elementary schools. Scholars note that in a large numberof cases, the seeds pertaining to the courses that individualstudents would like to take are planted right at the time when theyknow that they have to incorporate career aspirations. More oftenthan not, these career decisions are made without much informationregarding what the careers entail, with others being discarded as aresult of preconceived ideas regarding their appropriateness to aparticular gender. In this regard, providing sufficient informationright at the elementary level complete with mentors and role modelsfor the same is imperative so as to encourage girls to take thecourses.
Stillon this, it is imperative that laws are enacted to increase the paywages for students, both female and male, in the private sector.Scholars have acknowledged that a large number of students want jobsthat are enjoyable and that offer a pleasant environment whileenabling them to make a difference in the society or providingprofessional and personal development. Yet, a large number ofstudents have demonstrated a distinctive preference with regard tothe sector that they would prefer to work in (Forstenlechner &Rutledge, 2010). Research has shown that about 70 percent of studentswould like to work in the government or public sector as opposed tothe private sector. This may be as a result preferences for highernon-monetary benefits, higher salaries, shorter working hours,increased job prestige in the sector among other benefits. Further,parents have shown strong preference for the students to work in anappropriate work environment that is in line with the local cultureinstead of the private sector (Forstenlechner & Rutledge, 2010).Since parents come as the primary career advisors, there is a highpossibility that they persistently encourage them to pursue publicsector careers. In essence, it is imperative that the government putsin place measures that would raise the standards of wages andbenefits in the private sector, as well as the basis of work, so asto create more opportunities in the same and encourage the influx ofwomen in the same.
Bettinger,E.P. & Long, B.T. (2005) Do faculty serve as role models? Theimpact of instructor gender on female students. TheAmerican Economic Review,95, 2, 152-157 (2005)
Forstenlechner,I. and E. Rutledge. (2010). Unemployment in the Gulf: Time to Updatethe “Social Contract”. Middle East Policy, Vol. XVII, No. 2,Summer 2010.
Gallant,M. & Pounder, J.S (2008)., The employment of female nationals inthe United Arab Emirates (UAE): An analysis of opportunities andbarriers. Educ., Business and Society: Contemporary Middle EastIssues, 1, 1, 26-33
Godwin,S.M. (2006). Globalizaton, Education and Emiratization: A Study ofthe United Arab Emirates, Electronic Journal on Information Systemsin Developing Countries, 27(1), 1-14.
Tully,D. & Jacobs, B. (2010) Effects of single-gender mathematicsclassrooms on self-perception of mathematical ability and postsecondary engineering paths: an Australian case study. European J. ofEngng. Educ., 35, 4, 455- 467