Abu Dhabi: The Government has been urged to open new schools to cope with demand across the UAE.

Hamad Al Rahoumi, a member of the Federal National Council from Dubai, told the House on Tuesday shortage in public schools specifically in new residential compounds was prompting Emirati students to turn to private schools.

“Emirati students are forsaking public schools for private education, because of public school shortage,” Al Rahoumi said, as he questioned Hussein Bin Ibrahim Al Hammadi, Minister of Education.

Citing figures from the Knowledge Human and Development Authority (KHDA), Al Rahoumi said the number of Emiratis enrolled in Dubai’s private schools rose by 2.2 per cent last academic year and has more than doubled since 2001.

The Dubai Private Education Landscape report showed that 33,630 Emiratis were enrolled in Dubai private schools in 2018-19, up from 32,911 pupils in 2017-18.

Al Rahoumi said the number of Emirati pupils in public schools in Dubai decreased by 0.4 per cent to 24,747 in 2018-19 from 24,857. “Figures showed a decrease in the public school population of Emirati students by 0.3 per cent in 2017-18, 0.7 per cent in 2016-17, 1.6 in 2016-15 and 0.1 decrease in 2015-14 compared to the pervious academic year.”

The Dubai Private Education Landscape report showed the main reason more Emiratis were choosing private schools was because of “better teaching and learning”.

The Minister of Education affirmed that no admission by an Emirati pupil was rejected by public schools.

He said the Education Ministry was carrying out a comprehensive plan for each emirate to meet demand on public school places.

“There is an integrated plan to replace and build new schools at the state level in coordination with the local educational sectors and with the Shaikh Zayed Housing Programme to allocate land for schools close to the residential complexes,” the minister said, noting that the construction of two educational complexes in Al Mizhar and Al Barsha was being completed.

Al Hammadi added the increase in the number of expatriates in Dubai had prompted the establishment of more private schools, taking into account the construction of more public schools for the first and second circles to ease pupils’ access.

Education draft law debated

FNC members on Tuesday debated the draft law on education which provides for the right of every Emirati student to free and compulsory education up to the undergraduate level.

The House, however, returned the draft law to the FNC Committee on Education, Culture, Youth and Sport and Media, for revision.

The Ministry of Education launched a strategic plan for 2017-2021 to develop an innovative education system for building a knowledgeable and globally competitive society. The system includes all age groups to be able to meet future labour market demand. It shall ensure quality of the output of Ministry of Education and provide best services for internal and external customers.

The UAE’s Education strategy, which is a series of ambitious five-year plans designed to bring significant qualitative improvement in the education system, especially in the way teachers teach and students learn, smart learning programmes, new teachers’ codes, licensing and evaluations systems, as well as curriculum revision, including teaching math and science in English, are all part of the strategy. A key area of focus has been to transform K-12 programmes to ensure that students are fully prepared to attend universities around the world and compete in the global marketplace.

The government has promoted technology in schools to foster future employment and 21st century among today’s youth, in line with its strategy to introduce computers and tablets in all schools.