Abu Dhabi: The UAE has managed to position itself as a leader in developing a knowledge-based economy during a short period of time, the UAE Minister of Higher Education said during a forum on education and innovation for economic security.

"A knowledge-based economy requires willing countries to define and leverage their strengths to become leaders in knowledge creation and application through education, and to increase human capital, which is essential for economic growth," Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, told delegates at an international symposium that showcased innovative approaches on how Middle Eastern governments can overcome historical shortcomings, to ensure sustainable and secure economic growth.

Abu Dhabi and the UAE have played a pivotal role in regional and world economic affairs, said the higher education minister.

"We have committed substantial resources to improving our education system at all levels; and play a key role in regional and global security, trade and investment...," he said.

The UAE has initiated important actions to address current and future challenges. "We believe that the economic, political security and stability of our nation will be enhanced by full employment of our citizens, and are working on increasing the number of nationals employed in all sectors."

Shaikh Nahyan said Emirati women should be given the opportunity join in the new economy.

While some countries in the Middle East fall short on motivating students to find suitable jobs on par with their studies in their own countries, the UAE has managed to attract most if its students back to their country.

Dr. Michael Parsons, Associate Director at the Abu Dhabi Women's College, spoke about key reforms to help turn education into empowerment. He said there are many reasons why students in the UAE want to stay and said the country has managed well.

While adapting to international standards however, UAE students need to stick to their own national identity and embrace it, be proud of it. "I also believe that the government should focus on childhood education, and prepare students at an earlier age so that they don't struggle at a later stage," said Dr. Parsons.

Speaking about human capital development and achieving economic security, Dr. Hanine Salem, Director, RAND Middle East, applauded governments in the GCC region that have placed great emphasis on education.