Girls need a wide-ranging, modern education – and so do boys

We must prepare all of our children for the realities of life and work in an ever-changing world

DUBAI, UAE. November 5, 2014. Seniors from Al Mawakeb school attend a Math class. (Journalist: Roberta Pennington) Reem Falaknaz / The National
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In the past couple of days, there has been much discussion of what girls should learn at school. While there is evidently still plenty to talk about, certain facts are already in and the truth is beyond doubt. Women are taking up the majority of the UAE's university places, occupy nearly a third of the government's cabinet positions and are playing increasingly important roles in business and state institutions. If evidence were needed, this proves that they are integral to the country's continued success and its growing prominence on the world stage. With this in mind, girls need to be made ready for every facet of modern life and be provided with a wide-ranging education, from science and the arts to sport and cookery. As do boys.

While languages and Stem subjects form the cornerstones of a high-quality education, children can learn valuable, lifelong lessons from non-academic pursuits. As well as the basic benefits of physical activity, participation in team sports, such as football and rugby, builds confidence, determination and collaborative skills in boys and girls alike. Domestic tasks such as cookery are equally important. In addition to the fact that making a meal for family and friends can be one of life’s great pleasures, children tend to learn much more about what goes into their food and how to plan a healthy diet from practical experience than they do from any textbook. With obesity and chronic conditions such as diabetes on the rise in both genders, this early-hands-on education could prove vital to the health of the nation.

In recent years, the UAE has shown great foresight in preparing its young people for life and work in a rapidly changing world. From the appointment of Shamma Al Mazrui as the Minister of State for Youth Affairs in 2016 to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid's One Million Arab Coders initiative, the country continues to take bold and innovative steps to harness the vast potential of its youth. Encouraging equal treatment and recognising how much all our children have to offer will, similarly, help to ensure a bright future for everyone.