According to the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), nearly 25% of Emirati boys fail to finish high school, a rate that has varied little over the last 20 years, despite education reforms in Abu Dhabi and funding in Doha. According to analysts, the boys often drop out to pursue careers in low-skilled positions in the army or police force. Either that, or they join the family business.
For those boys who do complete school, some fail and have to repeat grades and aren’t able to graduate until they are 24 years old. Out of 100 boys monitored from grade six, only 32 complete high school in 12 years. Forty-seven completed after repeating at least a year. Twenty-one dropped out. Most dropouts occur during grade ten — 11% of boys in grade ten don’t go on to grade 11.
Of course, the high boy drop out rate means that many boys do not pursue a higher education: universities are only 30% male. This has widespread economic and social impacts on the UAE: Uneducated men are less likely to get married. Also, higher level jobs then are outsourced to expats.
How do we address the problem?
According to Ms. Ridge, a researcher at Sheik Saud bin Saqr al-Qasimi Foundation, “Teacher quality is a major factor and, especially in the U.A.E., there needs to be rapid improvement in training Arab men teachers… Many of them struggle with how to teach and are very unengaging.”
But according to executive director for the Office of Planning and Strategic Affairs at the Abu Dhabi Education Council Rafic Makki, “We can’t just fix this with a better curriculum or better teachers; we need to have a community approach.”
Ms. Marri of the KHDA said, “The system surrounding education is flawed: everything from the environment, assessment of teachers, parents encouragement, to the expectation of finding a government job.”
A current university student, Mr. Bisher calls for hope, having been a man who studied in the system: “Right now, there is no inspiration in schools for teachers, for students, for principals, for anyone; our boys’ schools can really feel lifeless… We need to give inspiration to students that they really can be something someday, and empower teachers to help them with that vision, before it’s too late.”