7 minute read

United Arab Emirates


The government is responding to the dynamics of the small national population in relation to a very large nonnational population, which could form the basis for future political instability or conflict, by treating expatriates as temporary residents who will be replaced in the future by qualified Emiratis. There is pressure on the educational system to produce graduates who are ready, willing and well qualified to join the work force, and on the Ministry of Education and Youth to get more UAE nationals into teaching positions.

The typical contract for an expatriate teacher is three to five years, though some expatriate teachers have been allowed to stay in the UAE longer. The turnover among expatriate teachers is about 15 to 18 percent per year, requiring the ministry to hire up to 2,300 new teachers a year from among the approximately 25,000 who apply.

Nationals in the system include university and teaching training institute graduates, but others with minimal qualifications are often hired as teachers and thousands have been hired without any formal education in the profession. No specific training levels are required for a national to qualify for a job and nothing like a teaching certificate exists in the UAE. The pay scales for national teachers are about sixty percent higher than for expatriates in the federal schools and national males are given further inducements to become a teacher. Nationals also have great advancement opportunities. About seventy percent of all principals are Emiratis. In spite of such measures, the goal of having a teaching force that is 90 percent Emirati by 2020 appears to have little chance of coming to pass.

Teachers, administrators, academics, and other observers of the UAE educational system have noted with concern poor quality instruction and learning exist in some outlets. Research has shown that teaching methods on the whole are traditional and based on rote memorization. Textbooks are seen as being at the center of learning through memorization. Teacher absenteeism is also a problem. Innovation on the part of teachers is often viewed as very difficult because of the demands of complying with a centralized curriculum and evaluation system enforced by administrators and school inspectors. Explanation and discussion are the most common methods reported with little use of small group, individualized, lecturing, experimental, laboratory, or role-playing methods.

Observers also argue that curricula are outmoded and that innovations, when instituted, are often practices that are going out of fashion elsewhere. Concerns have also been expressed about a culturally based emphasis on group relationships, which impedes individual effort. Performance in many areas is often years behind that of students in other national systems. Dropout rates are high. Expatriate teachers, as temporary guest workers, are contract workers whose views are often not considered by UAE administrators and who are not perceived as stakeholders in the system. Some expatriate teachers are trained for systems in which large class sizes are the rule and there is an intentional "weeding out" of marginal students, blocking their prospects for postsecondary education. The UAE can afford small class size and individualized instruction in environments in which most students can progress. The high turnover in expatriate staff prevents UAE schools from developing a cadre of experienced teachers upon which quality programs depend. Because expatriate teachers are trained in their home countries, the UAE cannot exert control over their training or qualifications or provide for some common basis of experience. Some question the advisability of having foreign teachers as role models for Emirati youth.

The UAE educational system faces considerable challenges but the UAE is one of the few nations on earth in which ample financial resources are available to help resolve them. The vision of the leadership and administrative skill of those guiding such programs within a diverse and complex cultural environment will determine the outcome.


Abdullah, Muhammad Morsy. The United Arab Emirates: A Modern History. London: Croom Helm, 1978.

Alkim, Hassan Hamdan al-. The Foreign Policy of the United Arab Emirates. London: Saqi, 1989.

Anani, Ahmad, and Ken Whittingham. The Early History of the Gulf Arabs. London: Longman, 1986.

Anthony, John Duke. Arab States of the Lower Gulf: People, Politics, Petroleum. Washington: Middle East Institute, 1975.

Azhary, M.S. El (ed.). The Impact of Oil Revenues on Arab Gulf Development. London: Croom Helm, 1984.

Azzam, Henry T. The Gulf Economies in Transition. London: Macmillan, 1988.

Badran, A. At The Crossroads, Education in the Middle East. New York: Paragon Press, 1989.

Bahgat, G. "Education in the Gulf Monarchies: Retrospect and Prospects." International Review of Education 45(1999): 137-56.

Banna, Hamaid al-. "Teacher Training in the UAE: Problems and Prospects." In Higher Education in the Gulf: Problems and Prospects, ed. K. E. Shaw,101-18. Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1997.

Bell Fekih, Cherif Moulay. "Modern Secondary Education in the United Arab Emirates: Development, Issues and Perspectives." Ed.D dissertation, Temple University, 1993.

Bibby, Geoffrey. Looking for Dilmun. New York: Knopf, 1969.

Bulloch, John. The Persian Gulf Unveiled. New York: Congdon and West, 1984.

Daair, S. "Education in the United Arab Emirates and the Islamic Value-System." Muslim Education Quarterly 5 (1987): 15-35.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: United Arab Emirates, 2000. London: 2000.

Eichelman, D. F. "Mass Higher Education and the Religious Imagination in Contemporary Arab Society." American Ethnologist 19 (1992): 643-55.

Esposito, John. Islam: The Straight Path. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.

Field, Michael. The Merchants: The Big Business Families of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. Woodstock, New York: Overlook Press, 1985.

Financial Times. Country Briefing on the United Arab Emirates. 2001. Available from http://www.briefing.ft.com/.

Gardner, W. E., "Developing A Quality Teaching Force for the United Arab Emirates." Journal of Education for Teaching 21 (1995): 289-312.

Halliday, Fred. Arabia Without Sultans. Baltimore: Penguin, 1974.

Held, Colbert C. Middle East Patterns: Places, Peoples, and Politics. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1989.

International Bureau of Education, UNESCO. Profiles of National Education Systems. 2001. Available from http://www.ibe.unesco.org/.

Jassim, Sulaiman al-, "Prospects of Higher Education in the United Arab Emirates Higher Colleges of Technology (case study)." In Higher Education in the Gulf: Problems and Prospects, ed. K. E. Shaw, 139-46. Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1997.

Library of Congress, Federal Research Division. "Country Studies/Area Handbook Series: United Arab Emirates (Persian Gulf States)." Washington, DC, 1994.

Ministry of Education and Youth, United Arab Emirates. Educational Statistics. 2001. Available from: http://education.gov.ae.

Ministry of Information and Culture, United Arab Emirates. UAE Yearbook. Available from http://information.gov.ae/.

Misnad, Sheikha al-. The Development of Modern Education in the Gulf. London: Ithaca Press, 1985.

Netton, Ian Richard, ed. Arabia and the Gulf: From Traditional Society to Modern States. London: Croom Helm, 1986.

Peck, Malcolm C. The United Arab Emirates: A Venture in Unity. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1986.

——. United Arab Emirates. Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia, 2001. Available from http://encarta.msn.com/.

Peterson, Erik. The Gulf Cooperation Council: Search for Unity in a Dynamic Region. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1988.

Peterson, John E. The Arab Gulf States: Steps Toward Political Participation. New York: Praeger, 1988.

Potts, Daniel T. The Arabian Gulf in Antiquity. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990.

Qasimi, Muhammad al-. The Myth of Arab Piracy in the Gulf. London: Croom Helm, 1986.

Raban, J. Arabia: A Journey Through the Labyrinth. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1979.

Robins, Philip. The Future of the Gulf: Politics and Oil in the 1990s. Brookfield, Vermont: Dartmouth University Press, 1989.

Sampson, Anthony. The Seven Sisters: The Great Oil Companies and the World They Made. New York: Viking Press, 1975.

Sharabi, Hisham. Theory, Politics and the Arab World. New York: Routledge, 1990.

Shaw, K. E. "Development Tasks for Arab Gulf Universities." Arab Studies Quarterly (Fall 1993): 83-90.

——. "Cultural Issues in Evaluation Studies of Middle Eastern Higher Education, Assessment and Evaluation." Higher Education 21 (1996): 313-24.

Shaw, K. E., ed. Higher Education in the Gulf: Problems and Prospects. Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1997.

Suwaidi, Khalifa A. al-, "Higher Education in the United Arab Emirate: History and Prospects." In Higher Education in the Gulf: Problems and Prospects, ed. K. E. Shaw, 122-38. Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1997.

Taryam, A.O. The Establishment of the United Arab Emirates, 1950-85. London: Croom Helm, 1987.

Thesiger, Wilfred. Arabian Sands. New York,: Dutton, 1959.

Tuson, P. (ed.) Records of the Emirates 1820-1958. Oxford: Archive Edition, 1990.

Vine, P. and P. Casey. United Arab Emirates, Heritage and Modern Development. London: Immel Publishing, 1992.

Zahlan, Rosemarie Said. The Origins of the United Arab Emirates. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1978.

—Paul D. Starr

Additional topics

Education - Free Encyclopedia Search EngineGlobal Education ReferenceUnited Arab Emirates - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education