Private sector funding of education is 'insufficient' says UAE official

Despite the private sector continuing to benefit from the skilled graduates emerging from the country’s educational system, its investment into the sector was described as insufficient by the under-secretary at the UAE Ministry of Education at an industry forum in Dubai this week.

Pointing to figures that showed private sector investment in education in 2012 was 0.1 percent globally, HE Marwan Al Sawaleh said there was still “big opportunities for the private sector” to contribute to education globally.

“I don’t believe the contribution is sufficient,” he told delegates at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai on Sunday. “There is a lot of opportunities and we are still looking forward to more contribution to education.

“The private sector is benefiting from skilled human resources, however the benefits are not seen really in the world – still we need more to come.”

Al Sawaleh said partnerships with the private sector, including non-government organisations (NGOs), was one of the main solutions.

However, he said investment in technology and content was also key.

Al Sawaleh said while the UAE Government was embracing technology in the classroom and was committed, through a partnership with Samsung, to introduce technology to all schools within three years, it was only an enabler.

The role of teachers and parents was important, as was the need to adapt policies and the curriculum to reflect changing needs, he said.

Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO, described the situation as a global learning crisis that needed to be tackled if the international community was to reach its target of eliminating extreme poverty by 2030.

She said a lack of access to education and bad quality education cost countries $129bn every year.

Bokova called for more effort to reach the “most marginalised”, including girls’ education and minority groups, saying a business as usual approach would mean a target for all girls to have at least primary school education would not be met until 2086.

However, she pointed out that there were still 250 million young people in the world who had been through formal schooling but “cannot read and write”.

Dubai Cares CEO Tariq Al Gurg said while many people were cut off from education because of geographical distance and lack of resourcing, the bigger challenge today was growing inequality.

“Whether it comes to lack of access for girls, for minorities or indigenous people, there you are really dealing with the core human race issue of discrimination and exclusion,” he told the forum.

Dr Rebecca Winthrop, a senior fellow and director at the US Brookings Institution, suggested public-private partnerships was one way to reach those marginalised in the education sector.

However she warned that potential pitfalls of relying on the private sector included a lack of government-developed infrastructure to fall back on in the case of the private sector withdrawing from an area or profit motive overriding teaching quality.

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