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United Arab Emirates Table of Contents

United Arab Emirates

United Arab Emirates -- Education

In the early 1900s, three major schools were established by pearl merchants in Dubayy, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah. The schools were staffed by foreign teachers who taught reading, writing, and Islamic studies. The economic crises of the 1920s and 1930s forced some of these and other schools to close, but some reopened when the economy improved.

The British built the first school offering a comprehensive curriculum in Sharjah in 1953. Staffed by teachers from other Arab countries, the school had 450 boys between the ages of six and seventeen that year. Shortly after, the first modern primary school for girls was established in Sharjah. The British government also built schools in Abu Dhabi, Ras al Khaymah, and Khawr Fakkan and established an agricultural school in Ras al Khaymah in 1955 and a technical school in Sharjah in 1958. In 1958 Kuwait started to build schools in the amirates, including facilities in Ajman and Umm al Qaywayn. Kuwait also funded teacher trainees from the amirates to go abroad for training. Until the amirates could afford to pay teachers, Bahrain, Qatar, and the Egyptian region of the United Arab Republic (UAR) paid teachers to work in the amirates.

After Abu Dhabi began earning oil revenues in the early 1960s, it developed and funded its own educational system, while the other amirates continued to rely on outside assistance. By the 1964-65 academic year, Abu Dhabi had six schools attended by 390 boys and 138 girls, taught by thirty-three teachers. In the same year, there were thirty-one schools outside Abu Dhabi, twelve of which were for girls. Dubayy had 3,572 students in ten schools and 137 teachers, most of whom came from Kuwait and the UAR.

After the founding of the UAE, there was tremendous expansion of public education facilities. Section 17 of the constitution states that education is fundamental to the progress of society and is to be compulsory at the primary level and free at all levels. Uniforms, books, equipment, and transportation are also free. In the first seven years of the UAE's existence, education was second only to defense in the federal budget. In 1988 the budget allocated Dh2.0 million (for value of the the UAE dirham-- see Glossary) for education.

The education system in the UAE includes six years of primary school and six years of secondary school (see table 26, Appendix). By 1972-73, the first full academic year following the formation of the UAE, the government operated an estimated 140 schools, twelve of which offered boarding facilities. Most schools are separated according to gender, but some through the primary level are coeducational. In 1990-91 there were about 760 schools with 49,904 pupils in preschool, 227,083 students in primary school, and 111,611 in secondary school. One-third of the pupils attended private or religious schools. Beginning in the 1991-92 academic year, military courses were compulsory in federal secondary schools.

United Arab Emirates University opened in 1977 at Al Ayn with four faculties: arts, science, education and political science, and business administration. First-year enrollment was 400. A sharia (Islamic jurisprudence) faculty was added in 1978; faculties in agriculture and engineering were added in 1982. In 1988 four higher colleges of technology (two for men and two for women) opened. By the 1990-91 academic year, enrollment stood at 8,941 students. In the previous academic year, 65 percent of university students were women. Many UAE nationals go abroad for university and graduate studies to other Arab countries and to Britain and the United States.

In the early 1990s, United Arab Emirates University was being expanded, at an estimated outlay of Dh3 to Dh5 billion, to accommodate up to 16,000 students by the year 2000. The existing campus will become a technical college after the expansion is completed.

The Women's Federation of the UAE provides adult literacy classes. There were twenty-six adult education centers in 1992. The United Nations (UN) estimated the UAE's literacy rate in 1988-89 as 53.5 percent overall, 58.4 percent for males and 38.1 percent for females. The government also operates several vocational training centers, which in the 1987-88 academic year had 2,614 students.

Data as of January 1993

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United Arab Emirates Table of Contents