The UAE which started modern development under late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan with a rudimentary form of education can now boast of having some of the world-class schools, universities and technical institutions to train Emiratis and expatriates in various fields.
The UAE education sector is witnessing the next phase of expansion and quality upgradation to prepare the young generation for the manpower needs of huge industrial projects.
Education has always been getting a good portion of the UAE federal budgets and in 2007 it received 25 per cent of total $1.9 billion (Dh6.9bn). In the year 2009, education and social sectors received 23 per cent and 37 per cent respectively of the total budget of Dh42.2bn.
The UAE Government has taken several initiatives to train Emirati engineers and technicians to work in the country's booming industrial sector.
As the country is expected to develop several heavy industries and services in various fields, a large number of Emirati experts, engineers and technicians will be trained to work in crucial jobs. The UAE has been developing in all areas and huge investment made in the education sector plays a vital role in the country's fast development.
An official from the Dubai Industrial Academy said: "From January, we are going to train several Emirati students for companies such as Dugas and Enoc. The training programme will admit students from the Northern Emirates to study gas process operations. The long-term plan is to train Emirati students in technical fields and prepare them to attend engineering degrees and diploma courses offered by the universities and colleges.
"Students who complete school education cannot directly enter engineering courses in these colleges. Dubai Industrial Academy training will help such students enter the field of technical jobs. Currently not many Emiratis work in these technical fields," he said.
Similarly, Emirates Aluminum (Emal) – a multi-billion dollar aluminum project in Abu Dhabi – would require several thousand staff including Emiratis.
According to Emal sources, the long-term plan is to recruit five thousand staff for running various stages of expansion planned for the project.
The Petroleum Institute of Abu Dhabi had started training Emirati women to work in the petroleum industry, an area dominated by men.
Through memorandum of understanding, Tanmia expects to complement the efforts of the federal government to comprehensively develop national human resources and aims to support the initiatives of the Ministry of Economy and DIA to maximise emiratisation in the industrial sector.
"The industrial sector of the UAE holds tremendous employment potential for nationals, and through this MoU with the Ministry of Economy and Dubai Industrial Academy, Tanmia is keen on fully exploring this potential," said Ahmad Humaid Al Tayer, Minister of State for Financial Affairs.
Dr Michael Ohadi, Provost and Interim President of Petroleum Institute, Abu Dhabi, said: "There will be a growing demand for at least the next 20 to 30 years for hydrocarbons while the world actively seeks to find alternative energy resources and technologies."
He said the institute is positioned to benefit from the significance that energy plays in the 21st century. The oil and gas industry is facing a severe manpower shortage and the UAE has addressed the problem by allowing Emirati women to study petroleum engineering.
The first batch of Emirati women petroleum engineers is expected to come out soon and may find work with Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, or Adnoc.
According to Dr Tayeb Kamali, Vice-Chancellor of the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT), the HCT is entering the 21st of successfully providing world-class higher education at each of its campuses and developed partnerships with renowned universities and academic centres from around the world. "Every day I meet some of our graduates serving the nation in key leadership and professional roles in a wide spectrum of industry and organisations.
"Each year, as another cohort of graduates from the HCT come out, it is comforting to know that the future of UAE is in the hands of such highly skilled and enthusiastic youth. Many of our graduates have progressed in their career paths much faster than others, thanks to the wonderful opportunities provided by this nation."
Addressing the UAE student community he said in the HCT journal, Al Rawi, that the success of UAE graduates in a variety of industries and environments proves that the student communities take full advantage of the enormous educational opportunities provided at HCT campuses to become better leaders, citizens and professionals before they face the world.
In the academic year 2008-2009, about 16,000 students were enrolled in the university. New colleges are opened and students enrolled in a record time in the town of Ruwais, Western Abu Dhabi and HCTs first overseas campus is planned at Bangaluru, India. New campuses are at planning stage for Ras al Khaimah Women College and Madinat Zayed Colleges.
A Fujiarah Marine College project is also under planning stage and a Dh1bn project – HCT Innovation City is being submitted, he said.
Zayed University, another world class education institution in the UAE, was established in 1998 by the federal government to educate Emirati women. It has now campuses in Abu Dhabi and Dubai led by a single administration, and offers similar programmes on both campuses. The university currently enrolls about 3,200 Emirati women. The ZU is based on an international model of higher education.
The UAE education sector, particularly higher education, has been experiencing rapid expansion due to several factors including rise in student in-take in public schools and government's strong emiratisation drive.
Every year, more than 10,000 pupils graduate from UAE schools. A large number of them pursue higher education, either in the UAE or overseas. Many meritorious students, including girls' students, get scholarships for higher education. The country's leaders have taken several initiatives to improve education infrastructure in the country.
The UAE offers a full-fledged educational system for both boys and girls from primary level to university, with education for the country's citizens being provided free through government schools, colleges and universities.
There is also an extensive private education sector which now accounts for around 40 per cent of the student population.
Over half-a-million students are now at school or in college, while several thousand students are pursuing courses abroad on government scholarship.
Education from primary to secondary level is universal and compulsory and literacy rates are comparable to the developed countries. There is a strong focus on computer literacy and on English language for Emirati students.