Career-Focused Education in the UAE

As education is closely related to human life and the development and prosperity of nations, United Arab Emirates paid much importance and focus to its educational system throughout the past years. The country’s educational decision makers highlighted the necessity to embrace education with skills and capabilities which enable its graduates survive in this highly competitive market with its huge number of job seekers and jobs challenging requirements. The philosophy of UAE education is integrated into this challenge and officials are completely aware of the local and global challenges of education in terms of preparing graduates who enjoy good characters, mentally grown, nourished by experience, self-discoverers of their potentials, and career-focused learning. Therefore, educators has adopted a future plan for education development during the upcoming next 20 years aiming to elevate the education and prepare graduates who will be able to meet the standard levels of knowledge and experience consistent with global market requirements.

Facts and Statistics

The growing need to modify the country’s educational scope and apply the aforementioned philosophy emerges from the rapidly increasing number of enrolled and graduate rates of students in public and private sectors in the country. In fact, the quality of all academic institutions in UAE is assured under the Commission for Academic Accreditation (CAA) which covers 76 institutions including all the seven emirates not including the institutions in Dubai International Academic City (DIAC) Free Zone 28 universities in Dubai Academic City (DAC) which seek academic accreditation by Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) through its Quality Assurance scheme. Moreover, KHDA established The University Quality Assurance International Board (UQAIB) to assure the quality of education at higher education in this free zone area. Consequently, there are 104 higher education institutions in the whole country. According to the latest numbers in 2016/2017 by the Ministry of Education statistics, there are 137.255 enrolled students under CAA and 30.375 students in Dubai Free Zone (KHDA source). Dubai alone almost has 60.000 students enrolled in CAA and Free Zone institutions. In addition, the total number of graduates in all UAE in 2016/2017 is approximately 33.671 students including 26.040 from CAA institutions and 7631 from Dubai Free Zone universities (Ministry of Education Source).

Local Authorities Implementation

Fulfilling the vision of the country in consolidating the efficiencies of its graduates in order to cope up with the challenging jobs requirements, local authorities participate in the achievement of this purpose. For example, the Ministry of Education has set its mission to develop innovative system for global competitive society which enables students to meet the labor market challenges by ensuring the best quality of educational services including teaching, learning, research, and community engagement. The ministry sets its strategic objectives and prepares students to enroll in majors in light of labor market needs and establishes a culture of innovation in an institutional working environment. Furthermore, the Commission for Academic Accreditation manifested the importance of the relationship between selecting majors and successful careers. For example, in their third point in the third standard “The Educational Program”, the commission emphasizes the urgent need to assign courses’ learning outcomes which align with local and international norms and skills in the discipline and according to the qualifications required based on market needs. Also, in their eighth point in the fifth standard “Students”, the commission urges institutions to provide programs consistent with the verified needs of its community. The institution should also guarantee that each enrolled student is aware of his/her career options upon graduation and the appropriate employment plans including career planning, career testing, counseling and employment skills at the time of enrolment. In sum, there is an overlap in the visions and missions of local authorities and ministries in achieving the objectives of education ambitions and challenges of future education in UAE although more cooperation is required to forcefully strengthen the ties between program of study and market needs.

Actual Practices  

Career-Focused education is apparently practiced by some academic institutions in the UAE as the recently became aware of the urgency to meet the country’s future and promising ambitions in developing the quality of its programs and graduates. These institutions came to the conclusion that there should be some core competencies in every graduate which enable him/her compete in the market and elevate the reputation of their names by the quality of graduate it provides the market as well. They summarized these competencies in efficient communication, outstanding critical thinking, and contemporary personal and social attributes. Career-Focused education is achieved through interdisciplinary curriculum that involves students and teachers in an interactive learning process where students take critical and life-defining decisions and bear their consequences. Career-Oriented Curriculum has been noticed more extensively in internship courses where expected-to-graduate students mingle with professionals and experts in their fields and find themselves underperforming them greatly. This culmination of a work-based learning curriculum opens the door for multiple questions by students and renders students skeptic of their abilities and readiness to market challenge. To meet that end, multiple academic institutions –including my employer – manifested the high importance of shifting towards career-focused curriculum by designing programs which are adaptable, resilient, flexible, and grow new interests, knowledge, skills, and competencies throughout students’ lives. Moreover, majors should develop awareness of students’ personal strengths, competencies, values, and passions. Indeed, students should learn through courses how to communicate and interact collaboratively with others, valuing diversity of people, perspectives, worldviews, ideas, and opportunities. Finally, designing programs on career-focused intention will definitely decrease the rates of unemployment and feeds the market with its needs and eventually develops the economy and quality of life at all levels.

About the Author

Mohammad B. Mustafa (DOB: 19 August 1979) is an assistant professor in the Department of Early Childhood Education at Jumeira University in Dubai since September 2016. Previously, the author worked for Al Ain University of Science and Technology in the College of Education from January 2013 to January 2016. The author’s specialty is Educational Leadership from Wichita State University in Kansas/ USA in 2012. The author holds a master degree in Linguistics from the University of Jordan in 2004. The author has nine peer-reviewed publications, served in many professional committees, chaired several accreditation projects including Applied Psychology, Master of Education, Communication and Media College, and Professional Diploma of Teaching. The author also headed the Department of Community Engagement and served as Assistant Dean of Students’ Affairs for several months in Al Ain University of Science and Technology.

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