Optional Subjects to Cut Dropout Rate

  • 5 October 2011

The Ministry of Education (MoE) is mulling over restructuring the country’s secondary education in an effort to reduce the dropout rate, said a senior education official.

“We are looking at restructuring the secondary education in which students will have optional subjects to choose from,” said Kholood Al Qassimi, Director of the Curriculum Department at the MoE. Her statement followed a recommendation from Dr Abdullatif Al Shamsi, Managing Director of the Institute of Applied Technology (IAT), who underscored the persisting problem of dropouts from Grades 6 to 12, with Grades 7 and 11 having the large number of school leavers. This follows a big dilemma that is occurring at the “critical point in their studies,” said Dr Al Shamsi.

Speaking at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research’s (ECSSR) second annual education conference on the theme ‘Essentials of School Education in the UAE’ on Tuesday, Dr Al Shamsi and Al Qassimi attributed the high dropout rate to students “abstaining from studying science”.

The dropout rate is higher for students in the secondary level, as the burden of studying science is more than the language subjects at that stage, Al Qassimi added. This is evident from the MoE’s statistics, which showed that 71 per cent of the Emirati students are going for languages. Only the rest are opting for science subjects.

This poses a problem for the country, which has made huge investments in the industrial sector, energy and hydrocarbon in an effort to diversify its economy. “We have a problem… the trend is going downward. More and more are going for language study resulting in a surplus of graduates (in the field) and this can create an imbalance considering that this country is growing at a fast rate,” stated Dr Al Shamsi.

“We need to encourage students, therefore, to go for technical studies,” he suggested. Citing the German, British and Singapore educational systems, Dr Al Shamsi said reforming the secondary education would motivate students to go to school. In Germany, students in Grade 10 have the opportunity to develop their skills by going into their preferred subjects. The British (GCSE and A Level) and Singapore systems have also similar options and not “restricting students to be confined to one path”.

Twenty per cent of the Grade 10 students pursue technical education while 30 per cent go to junior colleges in Singapore. “This distribution is well balanced covering the industrial, scientific and medical sectors,” Dr Al Shamsi pointed out. He suggested that the educational reform should allow Grade 10 students the option to either enter vocational or technical studies or the traditional road to higher education.

And that reform should include mandatory subjects in Maths, Science, English and Arabic language. At Grade 12, students can then focus on subjects of their areas of specialisation.

“This programme will help students join different areas of specialisation,” stated Dr Al Shamsi. This method will allow them to acquire qualifications for joining private and public institutions, and would serve as a stepping stone to further their education in future, if they so desire. According to the Ministry of Economy figures in 2005, Emiratis represent only seven per cent of the labour force. “We need methods that would enable us to link and connect the curriculum to the labour market,” Dr Al Shamsi said.