Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid's opening speech at the World Government Summit demonstrated the strong faith the leadership of this country has in its people. As The National reported yesterday, the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai said that the most important of the UAE's developments were reflected in its people. He expressed particular pride in the young people who contribute actively to the advancement of the country.
Just 45 years since the union of the seven emirates, the country has come a long way, and that progress has been driven by substantial investment in education. As Sheikh Mohammed pointed out, the UAE had only 40 university graduates when it was established, but it now has 77 universities. This is a translation of the vision of our Founding Father, Sheikh Zayed, who saw people as the only true resource. He said: “The real asset of any advanced nation is its people, especially the educated ones, and the prosperity and success of the people are measured by the standard of their education.”
Even though the education system will always be a work in progress, and there are many areas that need improvement, the country is heading in the right direction. Our education authorities are constantly looking at ways to raise overall standards and strengthening school curriculums by adding new areas of study. The latest example is the Sanaa classes that will be introduced in all public and private schools next year to ensure that pupils better understand the nation's history and heritage. Importantly, these classes will also be attended by expatriate students, ensuring that they understand how they fit into the rich mosaic that is the UAE.
While education is the foundation for development, there are many other areas in which this country has been making steady progress, both socially and economically. Women’s participation in government, as Sheikh Mohammed also pointed out, is more effective than ever, with one-third of Cabinet members female. There is a goal for that to rise over time to 50 per cent. The economy is more diversified than ever, as the non-oil sector continues to grow in size and contribution to the GDP.
As discussions about the future of the Arab world take place, the UAE’s success provides inspiration. While the country, as Sheikh Mohammed said, is not perfect, it’s doing its best to fight corruption and learn from its mistakes and the mistakes of others. This attitude is essential to ensure sustainable development.