Gulf societies need to scale up on education's possibilities in a COVID-free world
COVID-19 has undoubtedly prompted a shift in societies, changing the way we live and work. While vaccination programmes have proven to be effective, their implementation on a global scale has been uneven, leading to many countries experiencing devastating third waves.
As a society, there has never been a more important time to support those in immediate need… and to collectively take responsibility for future sustainability, safe-guarding and rebuilding economies to mitigate the long-term impact of the pandemic.
The catalyst for transformational change is education. It is a key driver of societal mobility and advancement, and an integral element of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, prioritising inclusive, quality education and the promotion of lifelong learning opportunities.
The pandemic has prompted a rapid acceleration of digital adoption and technological advancement. So, a significant focus on education - and re-education - is essential to meeting the rapidly evolving needs of society and the workplace. By taking action now to understand what’s required to equip the workforce, we are more likely to succeed in enabling a sustainable post-pandemic rebound.
Spectre of unemployment
A strong education system is needed to drive new opportunities, increase resilience and fuel growth. Further, one of the biggest challenges facing the GCC is youth unemployment, which is in excess of 25 per cent. The region’s long-term sustainability therefore depends on the quality of its educational systems. This calls for a renewed focus on improving access to quality education, developing skills and capabilities in new technologies, and human capital development.
Enriching the lives of its people has been a strategic priority for the UAE since its inception. As the founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan said: “The greatest use that can be made of wealth is to invest it in creating generations of educated and trained people. The real asset of any advanced nation is its people, especially the educated ones, and the prosperity and success of the people are measured by the standard of their education.”
To prepare the children of today for the future workforce, in 2017, the Ministry of Education launched the National Strategy for Higher Education 2030, which sets out to achieve the highest scientific and professional education standards to serve future generations. The strategy aims to prepare today’s youth to face the challenges of the future, and to ensure a high quality of life as the UAE continues along its path of diversification and growth.
Chart new paths, courses
Human resource has been proven as the real source of wealth for the nation. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is set to be dominated by new career paths that involve break-through scientific technologies, artificial intelligence and big data. We must therefore invest in skill development to provide a lifelong journey of education, which ensures that the workforce has the skills required to fuel economic growth.
At AGI, through our investments in Dar Al Marefa Private School and Al Ghurair University, and collaboration with Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education (AGFE), our mission is to support the journey of learning from early years to senior school, through to vocational training opportunities and university graduation. Our commitment to facilitating a full educational lifecycle has further solidified with Al Ghurair University and Dar Al Marefa Private School signing a memorandum of understanding, which aims to provide the best resources to enhance the quality of education. Combined, the two entities map out a lifelong journey of learning to produce ambitious, confident individuals who are appropriately skilled equipped to forge successful careers.
Foster new leaders
Supporting such initiatives is vital in order to develop the next generation of leaders. Embracing innovation and building a regional entrepreneurial ecosystem is key, and the private sector has a responsibility to invest in the human capital to drive economic development.
To emerge from the pandemic in a position of strength, governments and organisations must identify skills gap and look to provide access to resources that empower education and development to meet those needs. A forward-looking approach is necessary to equip the children of today with the skills that will be in demand for the workforce of tomorrow.
A better future starts with education. Through providing access to quality education throughout life, together we can build a stronger, sustainable future for all.
The writer is Group CEO, Al Ghurair Investment.