Higher education has come a long way in the UAE

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GUEST POST - More students than ever before are choosing to study in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and it's very easy to understand why. For a UAE university degree can match the breadth and depth of the very best of qualifications offered at top universities both in America or Europe.

UAE universities, such as the American University of Sharjah, or the string of foreign university branch campuses making up Dubai International Academic City, the world's only free zone dedicated to higher education, are pushing the boundaries of research and development and thereby attracting the sharpest minds from across the globe.

Yet, although sometimes hard to believe, it was not always this way. The UAE has in fact come a long way in just a short number of years. In an article by Dr Abdullah Al-Awadhi, which is featured on the website of the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR), a premier independent research institution, the total number of all public and private schools in 1971 stood at just 74. But by 2013, the number had risen to over 1,200 schools.

The number of university graduates at the time was less than 40 with thousands of vacant jobs awaiting them. There was not a single university then. Today, the UAE hosts 73 universities and colleges, with tens of thousands of students enrolled in them.

Dr Al-Awadhi writes, “These figures given indicate the progress made by the UAE's education sector in the last four decades. The reality is actually much better than what these statistics show and this is reflected in the 'UAE Vision 2021', which contains remarkably ambitious targets.”

The founder of the UAE, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, relentlessly focused on education as an essential pillar and critical factor behind progress in all fields. He once said, “The real fortune of any developed nation lies in its educated children. The progress of peoples and nations is measured by the level of their education and the access to education among them.”

Recent data gathered by the UAE's National Bureau of Statistics reveals that the country will ensure children complete their primary education and it will reach its targeted levels before 2015. Moreover, the Pearson Foundation, which specializes in providing education services across the world, confirmed in a report that the amount of investment in education technology and e-learning in the UAE is among the highest in the world.

Dr Al-Awadhi adds, “In compliance with and in response to the initiative of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum regarding building a 'Smart Government', the UAE works diligently to achieve top status regionally in terms of 'Smart Learning', a program that is designed for the next five years.

“It includes training and development of teachers, preparing 'smart classrooms'; building a special network for schools; distributing laptops for teachers, preparing classrooms for e-study environment, distributing smart tablets to students, receiving feedback, providing appropriate software to manage e-classes and utilizing e-syllabuses and interactive materials.

“The Smart Learning program aims to develop the education environment by using smart learning means and by improving the performance of students by empowering them and equipping them with technologies in conformity to international standards. The program also seeks to help students and teachers acquire knowledge and technical skills of the 21st century.”

Check out this and other articles and reports on the ECSSR website.

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