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1. Geography
2. Political situation
3. Defense
4. Economy
a. Figures
5. Health
6. Education
a. Universities
7. Demographics
8. Religions
a. Freedom
9. Peoples
10. Languages
11. History
12. Cities and Towns
13. Emirates

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Index / Education
Open map of United Arab EmiratesFlag of United Arab EmiratesUnited Arab Emirates /

Key figures
80% (women 82%, men 76%).
MENA rank: 12 of 22.
Basic education access
World rank: 107.
MENA rank: 9 of 22.
Density: 1:430,000.
Internationally ranked: 46%.
1.4% of total population.
MENA rank: 12 of 22.
$500/capita, 1.3%/GDP.
MENA rank: 9 of 20.
MENA rank
among 22 countries.

MENA = Middle East and North Africa.

Up until the middle of the 20th century, formal education was available only to a few in the lands of future United Arab Emirates. The first real efforts to establish a general educational system came in the 1960's, inspired by British model and financed directly from the treasuries of the emirs.
First with independence and the establishing of the United Arab Emirates in 1970, comes the real beginning of a modern school system. Within 6 years, in 1976, opened the first university. Today, all emirates share the same school system, and citizens have equal opportunities independent of their home emirate.
School is by law compulsory for all citizens for 9 years, but this regulation is not enforced, and a substantial number of children receive no formal education.
Education is free at all public institutions, from kindergartens to universities. This includes school uniforms, books, equipment and transportation. Non-citizens can use public institutions for a fee.
Private enterprise at all educational levels have come with increasing speed since the 1990's, a development which is encouraged by the governments. Private schools and universities require a tuition fee, which in some cases involves a cost beyond the reach of the average citizen. Close to 60% of pupils attend public schools, and more than 40% private schools. Private schools generally teach in other languages than Arabic, usually the languages of the many national groups among UAE expatriates. Also, the curriculum is different from that in UAE public schools, corresponding that that of the home lands.
Arabic is the language of instruction, but English is widely used, especially in maths and science.
Central government aims at replacing foreign, and in particular non-Muslim, teachers with emiratis. The goal is that by 2020, 90% of the teaching staff in government schools will be nationals. The official reasoning for this is the need to safeguard Islamic principles and national traditions.
Since 2006, programs have been launched to improve general quality of government schools, which partly is a reflection of the private schools having a higher standing in UAE society. The ideal by which emirati schools are formed is Western. Rote instruction and passive memorization are methods that are discouraged, and replaced by interactive methods, self-learning and focus on innovation. Subjects which in particular are promoted are mathematics, English and integrated science. The Dubai Education Council is largely involved in the advancing of higher education, while the Abu Dhabi Education Council has since 2005 been operative in all emirates, promoting reform for education from primary level through to higher education.
For long, UAE government has had special programs to improve education for women. These programs tend to be over-successful, as few countries in the world have a greater slant towards female success in school compared to male.
Two of the main fields of central attention are improving English skills and integrating the use of IT in general education as well as introducing it as a subject alone. The aim has been to provide one PC for every 5 pupils at the primary level, rising up to one PC for every student at university.
Official figures show that expenditure on education was in 2005 estimated at 1.3% of GDP, which is an extremely low figure, or $500/capita. But this figure is misrepresentative. UAE offers only services for its citizens, and that considered these figures can roughly be quadrupled (citizens count for 24% of total population) to ca. 5% and $2,000/capita.

In 1975, the rate of adult literacy was 54% for men and 31% for women. Today it is 80% in general, with slightly better figures for women. For some time now the trend is that literacy situation for women improves, while figures for men have stabilized.
As the UAE is one of few MENA countries which does not enforce its own regulation on compulsory primary education, with 15 to 20% of each age group not attending school, illiteracy rates seem to destined to remain high.

Pre-Primary education
Kindergarten are offered for children from 4 to 5 years of age. There are both public and private kindergartens. Public kindergartens do not function is preparation for ordinary school.

Primary, Preparatory and Secondary education
Primary education starts at the age of 6, and lasts 6 years. According to 2006 figures, 15% of boys and 18% of girls do not attend primary school. Drop-out rates are 3% from 1st to 5th grade, which is actually a comparatively high figure.
Preparatory education follows immediately after the primary, and lasts 3 years.
Secondary education follows immediately after the preparatory, and is also a 3 year program. About 62% of boys attend secondary education, with somewhat better figures for girls, at 66%. Upon completing the secondary, pupils will be awarded the Secondary School Leaving Certificate.
The many pupils who at the completion of the primary choose not to follow the academic branch, can start at a technical secondary school, where a 6 year program is offered. Upon completing this, the pupils are awarded the Technical Secondary Diploma.

Higher education
UAE has a world-record high entry rate from secondary to higher education; 95% of women, 80% of men of all those enrolled in the final year at secondary. With more girls attending secondary, the number of women at UAE universities is considerably higher than among men. At some universities figures are quite surprising, like the prestigious United Arab Emirates University, with almost 80% of new students being female.
Citizens can attend all public, and many of the private higher institutions for free. UAE had for long only one university, the United Arab Emirates University in Al-Ain, but with numerous options at technical colleges. The Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT), which has 12 colleges across the federation, are technically oriented, and cooperating closely with the commercial Centre of Excellence for Applied Research and Training (CERT). Diversification came about in the late 1990's, when several private and one public universities opened at several locations. The public one, the Zayed University had campuses established in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The Zayed University is a spearhead in modernization of UAE, having the best programs for learning English and great focus on preparing women for active participation in work life. The number of colleges also increased in this period, and there came about the establishment of branches of many foreign universities.
With the discrimination between citizens and expatriate students, it is common that expatriates attend universities in the home countries, or travel to Western countries.
In Dubai a designated district named Academic City has been established with facilities for satellite campuses of foreign universities, aiming at creating a world-class centre for higher learning.

By Tore Kjeilen