In what ways does the government of the UAE invest in education?
AL NAHYAN: As you know, the UAE government strategy, announced 2 years ago by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister and Vice President of the UAE, has focused mainly on human capital and establishing knowledge based society with a knowledge-based economy. Of course, that is the strategy of the government and the government will invest to implement this strategy. For that, the government has allocated more than 1/3 of its budget to education, which is a very clear indication that the UAE government is determined to invest in its human capital. We not only think, but we know, that this is part of what will determine prosperity for the future of this country and its ability to compete on the international stage with other countries. That alone is not enough to be able to compete; the world is changing. We see power shifting, economies shifting, and today’s biggest powers are not what they used to be. Europe and America have their own problems and issues.
The government has decided to allocate funds to invest in research through the UAE National Research Foundation. It will also allow us to be at the forefront and enable us to be part of human and technological advancement endeavors instead of just being a receiver of others’ innovation. Of course we are not ignorant of the investment that needs to be put into research to make a difference. We are partnering with institutions of international repute. These are internationally accredited institutions with a long history of research. So that is our main initiative: to put more stress and to put more emphasis on research. As far as higher education is concerned, apart from committing to provide good quality higher education, we are also required to provide good primary education and that is where the investment is rising in this sector. We are also investing in higher education and that is why we are investing in attracting universities from around the world who are coming here and opening campuses in the UAE, thus adding great value to the quality of our education and contributing to raising the standard of our higher education in the UAE. So these are our main initiatives. Of course there will be a continuous effort and commitment to provide higher education for every citizen of the UAE who is able to comply and reach the standards we set. So we are committed to provide that to every student in the UAE. So that is another challenge, which we are determined to meet.
What areas of research and innovation is the UAE suited to develop?
AL NAHYAN: We partner with institutions and we want to be on equal footing with others. We know our limits and we know what we can achieve. We are emphasizing a few major research initiatives, alternative energy, health and medicine, stem cell research, nanotechnology, and many other fields. Everyone always talks about stem cells and nanotechnology, but there are many other fields that one can work in. We are looking in the oil sector, in terms of how we can make the best use of the resources we have and how to maximize the benefits and rewards from them. Technology is developing so fast and there are so many ways to do things. Change has taken place so quickly with regard to the ways that oil and gas are extracted. Therefore, the use of technology in this field is also being emphasized. We want to ensure the best use of our natural resources.
What are you doing to ensure that the level and standard of education in the UAE grows as the economy and population of the UAE grows?
AL NAHYAN: This is a challenge of course but not one that is limited to the UAE. Whether it is in the United States, Europe, or in other parts of the world, they are facing the same dilemma and the same challenges that we are, proportionately of course. We do our best and we have the leadership and a government that is committed to do our best and maintain the best possible quality of education. Even compared to international standards, we are keeping pace and doing whatever is possible to keep up with the standards. I think providing education is one thing and having quality education is completely different. Unless you have quality education, you are wasting your time and your resources. We know that and we are trying our best to continuously upgrade, compare, and raise our standard of education. We are making our system more outcomes based, where the student will benefit when he or she graduates, rather than content based.
I think providing education is one thing and having quality education is completely different. Unless you have quality education, you are wasting your time and your resources. We know that and we are trying our best to continuously upgrade, compare, and raise our standard of education.