Today more than 70 per cent of Emiratis in federal higher education institutions are women. The large rate of dropouts among young Emirati men remains a major issue for all the community.
A survey in 2011 suggested that more than 15 per cent of Emirati boys drop out of secondary school and almost a quarter of Emirati men aged between 20 and 24 are school dropouts who will never return to education. By contrast, Emirati women are particularly efficient at school. Today more than 70 per cent of Emiratis in federal higher education institutions are women. Girls continue to perform better than boys across the region in all subjects, in international and national standardised tests. Meanwhile, boys are more likely to repeat a grade, drop out of school and are less likely to continue on to higher education. While the successes of women and girls in the region are heralded internally and externally, the poor achievement and retention of boys goes unmentioned. Girls are also far less likely to drop out of school prior to completion, with rates around 2 to 3 per cent while rates for boys are upwards of 10 per cent.
Many factors can explain this phenomenon. Firstly, the school and the culture don’t encourage boys to study very late. Culturally, the pressure on men to be the family breadwinner, to represent the family name well and to support their own families, remains a challenge, especially in rural areas. The pressure some young men feel to make money and prepare for marriage is also a factor, whereas in the other hand, the family gives young women an environment that encourages their education and offers limited distractions.
Secondly, the reasons of the gap between boys and girls’ results at school are likely to come from the education system in itself. Teachers and the quality of the courses have a huge impact on students achievements. In the UAE, girls are taught predominantly by Emirati women while boys are taught predominantly by expatriate men teachers. Without commenting on any difference of quality between women and men teachers, it can’t be denied that having shared experiences and cultural or social references make teaching and learning easier or more fluid.Moreover, studies show that schools behavior are different between boys and girls, because of different socializations and educations. Whereas boys are more confronted to discipline problems and less student involvement, girls are in general more assiduous in their studies.
Finally, the society and the work world are also major factors. Women in the UAE, despite their education levels, will face higher unemployment rates than men, so they have to study more to reach the same jobs, and sometimes also keep on studying as they are waiting for a job opportunity that takes more time to come.
All these factors combine to create a system in which young women are actively continuing their education but where young men are still failing to see the point of it. According to experts, warning about the consequences of this phenomenon, poorly educated boys are more likely to commit crimes, suffer from poor health and have a shorter lifespan. Moreover, the school dropout problem keeps Emiratisation from fully succeeding. Teachers and employers have been urged to work more closely together to prepare young Emirati men for the jobs market. Companies have a responsibility to become involved in the process of continuing education, by starting training and development programmes connected to diploma completion for example, in order to ensure adequate motivation for Emiratis to continue education and pursue higher education qualifications.