Abu Dhabi: 'Al Elm Nour' ('knowledge leads the way', in Arabic) were the exact words used to describe the importance of education during Margaret Spellings', US Secretary of Education, attempt to speak Arabic at a press conference on Monday.

During Spellings' second visit to the UAE, she told reporters at the Men's Higher College of Technology of her admiration towards the innovative and dynamic changes introduced to Abu Dhabi.

"Once again Abu Dhabi is collecting historical talents and introducing new universities such as the New York Institute of Technology and soon museums like the Louvre will follow the lead," she said.

She also addressed part of her speech to university students, who she said are blessed to receive an education in the UAE where "the world is at your finger tips".

"You live in a society that increasingly shuns discrimination and corruption and gives you the opportunity to help those around you and become eager to make a difference. You're part of a generation that wants to leave a foot print in society and I am not worried about you," she said to the students.

Nearly 80 million people can't read or write across the world, leaving one out of four children unable to complete their studies, she said. "It's important in this global economy to meet the needs of every single student and prepare our children for jobs that have not been invested in yet," she said.

Jobs for tomorrow

Students with strong mathematics and scientific skills can help create new and innovative ideas, she went on to say.

"We have to think of new ways to do business and healthcare, and not think of jobs of yesterday, but of creating jobs for tomorrow," stressed Spellings.

Answering a question from the audience about how the UAE can learn from the US, Spelling explained that learning goes both ways.

"There are always two sides of a pancake," she responded. "A program for education across the UAE was implemented in a short period of time; it's unlikely that this would have happened that fast in the USA. The US on the other hand, can share its diversity of experience, quality of programming and how we leveraged private sectors in higher education with the UAE."

Spelling concluded her speech by stressing the importance of higher education in empowering individuals across the world.

"We have nothing to loose and a whole world to gain with education," she said.