One in four young Emirati men dropping out

Almost a quarter of Emirati men aged between 20 and 24 are high school dropouts who will never return to education, new study shows.

Ras Al Khaimah - June 15, 2011 - Students wait outside their classroom before the start of year end exams at the Al Rams Secondary School for Boys in Al Rams, Ras Al Khaimah, June 15, 2011. (Photo by Jeff Topping/The National)
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DUBAI // Almost a quarter of  Emirati men aged between 20 and 24 are high school drop outs who will never return to education, a new study shows.

The study, to be released by the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR), blames uninspiring school environments, lack of interesting, relevant subject options and an absence of counselling for the high dropout rate.

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Last Updated: June 20, 2011

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It also says the ease of getting a job without qualifications robs many boys of incentives to stay in school.

The authors of the study say that if the Government wants a literate and skilled society, the dropout rate must be halved within five years.

The findings, some of which were released last year, suggest that about 22 per cent of the male Emirati population aged between 20 and 24 had dropped out of school and will not return to education. Among girls, the rate is 14 per cent and falling.

One in five pupils (male and female) who start high school will have dropped out by Grade 12, the study says.

Dropping out of school “is an issue which has not seen much improvement over the last decade”, said Mike Helal, the director for the Middle East and North Africa at Parkville Global Advisory and co-author of the study.

While some children drop out as early as Grade 6, Mr Helal, also a research fellow at the University of Melbourne, said the most pressing need was to tackle the issue at secondary level, and particularly in boys’ public schools, which had the highest rates.

“The dropout figures are heavily skewed by what happens in Grade 10 because most of the male Emiratis leave then,” he said.

Mr Helal said there were various reasons for pupils quitting, and each needed to be treated differently. “They can be disengaged because of the lack of choice which makes lessons boring. If they continue to fail and exceed a certain school age they will be forcibly pushed out as well.”

Fatma Al Marri, a senior official in the Knowledge and Human Development Authority in Dubai, which commissioned the study, said alternatives to classroom education would help stem the problem.

“There needs to be vocational education so that the young person who does not want to or can’t continue schooling can be learning a skill or trade while it is still compulsory for them to be in education,” said Ms Al Marri, who also co-wrote the study.

She said many children had non-academic abilities that should be catered for.

Dr Naji Al Mahdi, the executive director at the National Institute for Vocational Education, said the education system had failed to keep up with young people’s aspirations.

“The education system is not set up to accommodate different learning styles,” Dr Al Mahdi said. “They fail to see the value it will add in the future.”

Last month, the Ministry of Education announced the school-leaving age would be raised this year to 16. Dr Abdalla Al Amiri, the adviser to the Minister of Education, said it would ensure pupils left with at least a Grade 10 qualification.

“Dropouts is a big issue for the Government because we see kids leaving to get into careers like the police and army, which they find more attractive,” Dr Al Amiri said, adding that the ministry was also working on more counselling and a wider range of courses.

Mr Helal said pupils’ ambitions were being stunted by a lack of career advice. Part of the problem, he said, was that boys do not believe quitting will especially disadvantage their careers.

They also need a route back into education if they drop out because of a family emergency, he said.

“If there is a life event, like the death in the family, where the child needs to be the support and breadwinner, he should be allowed to leave but then be given an alternative to get back,” Mr Helal said.