As we enter a new era of education, my in depth studies over the past five years have generated a new concept for the future of education. The research was justified due to the unknown state of advancement in technology-driven education and therefore was important to ascertain the future direction of education requirements in the UAE education system in the immediate future.
I first formulated my concept having carried out extensive research involving ministers, academic directors, teachers, students, parents and industry. My approach gathered rich information from more than 8,000 stakeholders in the educational environment; all voices were heard allowing my new considered General Vocational Education and Training (GVET) concept to emerge.
The main findings were the importance of technology and the necessity to have fully capable, technological competent teaching staff teaching the youth of the country. I initially launched my concept during my keynote speech at BETT Middle East 2018 in Abu Dhabi and was subsequently invited to further elaborate during the 2020 Unesco-UNEVOC Network Consolidation seminar for the MENA Region.
Blending of cognitive and behavioural education
My idea of General Vocational Education and Training was examined, welcomed and very well supported by education experts from around the world. What makes GVET different is that it combines general education and vocational education to form a hybrid, a blending of cognitive and behavioural aspects of education. It is important that students in the UAE attain the highest possible standard of education.
GVET students are expected to perform to national standard in the general educational subjects, in fact to the same standard as all other students. However, GVET students have the advantage of undertaking a National Qualification in a vocational skill cluster that combines critical thinking and agile problem solving for work in technological intensive environments.
The importance of technology cannot be overlooked as it has application to all sectors of the economy. The introduction of technology has created a rapidly changing workforce, that requires advanced understanding of interdisciplinary science in multiple approaches.
It is very essential to introduce GVET to the students across all schools to become the creators, programmers and operators of technology. It is the agile integration of both academic and vocational education into a single transformed GVET system, that future proofs student’s skills and gives relevance to current and future markets.
My research further determined that separating academic and vocational education studies is no longer an option. It is more important to provide students with highly technical, transferable, skills related to the market, coupled with entrepreneurial thinking, important for building careers.
Flexibility in education
Starting at high school, from Grade 9 (although in some schools Grade 6) onward, GVET offers choice and flexibility in a four or seven year programme, designed to support student’s aspirations. GVET Grade 12 students graduating from a combination programme, holding a Grade 12 High School Diploma and National Qualification at Level 4 in a skill cluster, can progress to the Applied Bachelor Degree, or if certain prerequisite are met, to a Bachelor’s Degree.
More importantly, GVET Grade 12 High School Diploma graduates from the Advanced Science Programme (ASP) can progress to a Bachelor’s Degree or an Applied Bachelor Degree with advanced standing, reducing their study time by up to one year, thus giving GVET students a distinct advantage in achieving their career aspirations sooner. Further, the GVET route will not prevent students from pursuing academic pathways in the future with possible progression up to Masters or Applied Masters and Doctoral level degrees.
One of the strongest aspects of GVET is its close collaboration and partnership with the industry. Close association with a wide range of industry stakeholders not only facilitates the work experience for students but also involves the industry in the design and delivery of the curriculum. Students from Grade 10 onwards are able to experience two weeks work placement embedded in industry and for Grade 12 students an even more extensive period of up to one term.
By exposing students to industrial environments, students are aided to apply and scaffold their skills in the work environment, in preparation for their future chosen careers. As a result of work experience, students have a clearer vision of their chosen career or the career choices they need to make.
The GVET is a well-balanced, rounded programme that offers all the elements of education required for a future, technologically adept workforce and technologically intensive careers. It is important that the youth of the nation, the future of our country, be actively striving to be competent and skilled to contribute to the economic success of our nation.
Dr. Mubarak AlShamsi is the Director General of Abu Dhabi Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (ACTVET)