Abu Dhabi: Ever increasing drop out rates from schools and universities, as well as, the lack of educational facilities for citizens over the age of 50, have prompted senior educational officials in the emirate of Abu Dhabi to look closely at these concerns.

"This is the first time that the issue of adult education is addressed and this is because the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) has been focusing on enhancing its other educational programmes," said Dr Ala'a Al Deen Ali, Adec's Director of Information Management, and a member of the Abu Dhabi School Principals Advisory Committee.

The 11-member committee, which includes representatives from schools and the Council, was established in March 2010 to deal with various educational issues. The committee met yesterday at Adec's headquarters.

"There are currently 16,000 students, most of whom are Emiratis, in adult education institutions across the emirate. But there many disparities and loopholes in the current system. There is lack of qualified teachers and unified curriculum," Dr Ali said.

"We are also concerned that public school pupils who have failed an academic year twice, specially those who failed in grade 12, are sent to an adult learning centre, where they are placed with peers of very different age groups.

Age appropriate

"We need to find a way to establish special education classes in the schools so that even if such pupils fail, they will still be in an age-appropriate educational environment," he added.

According to the senior Adec official, there are thousands of students who have not enrolled in adult education courses. They are between the ages of 19 and 24, and this is a great cause for concern as they are unable to contribute to the national economy.

"We are trying to find ways to motivate them to complete their education, whether it is through encouraging them to enrol in institutes or distance-learning programmes," Dr Ali said.

"One of the major challenges ... is that there are three main educational levels that these students fall into: those who have dropped out of school, those who have left university and those who are pursuing their education in an irregular manner," he added. There are currently 47 centres, made up of the Family Development Foundation, Learning centres and 23 public schools that offer nightly adult education classes.

"There are more female than male students…because many had to stop initially due to various cultural reasons such as marriage...but we also see male students who wish to continue their higher education join these programmes to receive their high school diploma in order to do so," Dr Ali said.

Another major concern also highlighted was the lack of resources for illiterate senior citizens.