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United Arab Emirates


Area:The total area of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is about 83,600 square kilometers (with a total of 200 islands). The area of the UAE (except the islands) is about 77,700 square kilometers; among the GCC States it is the third largest after Saudi Arabia, and Oman.

Population: 2,724,000 (1998) Note: includes 1,576,472 non-nationals
Population Growth Rate: 1.61 percent (2000 est.)
Population Density: 35.1 per square kilometer

Capital: Abu Dhabi

Independence: December 2, 1971

Ethnicity / Race: Emirati 19 percent, other Arab Nationals 23 percent, South Asian 50 percent, other expatriates (includes Westerners and East Asians) 8 percent (1982)

Language: Arabic is the official language of the UAE. Other languages spoken are English, Hindi, Farsi, Pilipino, Tagalog, Malayalam, Russian etc.

Religion: The official religion of the United Arab Emirates is Islam; however, other faiths are tolerated and freedom to worship privately is given. Churches are common in some Emirates; in Dubai you will even find a Hindu Temple.

Geography: The United Arab Emirates is located in the middle of the Persian Gulf, north of the equator, between latitudes 22, 26.30, and longitudes 51, 56.30 east of Greenwich. It is bordered on the north by the Persian Gulf, on the west by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, on the south by the Sultanate of Oman and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and on the east by the Gulf of Oman. The strategic geographical location of UAE in the east of the Arab world is very important for the security and stability of this vital part of the Arab world. The United Arab Emirates is composed of seven Emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Qaiwain and Ras. Up until the early 1950s there were only a handful of schools in the various emirates (later become the United Arab Emirates). These schools were established by local merchants and taught basic reading, writing and Islamic studies. The first school to offer an expanded curriculum was established in the Emirate of Sharjah in 1953 by the British Government. In the early 1960s, after Abu Dhabi began to earn oil revenues, more schools were established in Abu Dhabi and other neighboring Emirates. After the establishment of the UAE in 1971, there was a large expansion in the country's public education system.

Literacy: In 1989 the United Nations estimated that the literacy rate in the UAE was about 53.5 percent; by 2000 the literacy rate had reached an estimated 79 percent. Although the UAE has achieved much in the field of education, there is a real awareness that the constant updating of policy and continual investment in infrastructure is required to ensure that graduates are properly equipped to enter the workforce and assist in the country's development. To this end, the Ministry of Education has produced a policy document outlining a strategy for further educational development in the UAE up to the year 2020, based on several five-year plans.


Education in the United Arab Emirates is overseen by the وزارة التربية والتعليم.

Primary Education

Primary and secondary education is provided for all UAE citizens. The existing educational structure, which was established in the early 1970s, is a four-tier system covering fourteen years of education.

Kindergarten is offered as a pre-primary education program for students from four to five years old. Students generally begin primary education at the age of six years old. The program lasts for six years. The primary education curriculum emphasizes basic literacy and numeracy skills, and includes basic instruction in language, mathematics and sciences.

Secondary Education

Preperatory education serves as the transition between primary and secondary school. The program lasts for three years, and is generally completed when students are twelve up until they are fifteen years old.

Secondary education lasts for three years and is composed of a common first year followed by specialization in science or arts for the remaining two years. With the completion of the twelfth year, students take the examination for the Shahadat Al-Thanawiya Al-Amma. Technical secondary education offers both preparatory and secondary cycles. The preparatory cycle includes an engineering course for the acquisition of basic skills leading to the intermediate certificate. At the end of the secondary cycle, a technical secondary diploma is awarded.

The secondary cycle focuses on preparing students for university, or provides instruction in technical or vocational skills to allow students to enter the workforce directly. Most students in the UAE tend to pursue higher education at universities rather than at technical or vocational institutes.

Post-Secondary Education

Higher education is offered at the United Arab Emirates (UAE) University, Ajman University College of Science and Technology and Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT). The UAE University, located in Al Ain, has eight faculties and was established in 1976. In the last twenty-four years, this university has become a leading institution in education, research and community service; it is also proving to be the most popular destination for students seeking higher education in the UAE with over fifteen thousand students currently studying at their facilities.

The UAE University has independent status and a separate government budget. Its governing body, the Supreme Council, is made up of the chancellor, the vice-chancellor, deans of the faculties and members selected by the Council of Ministers. A National Commission for Manpower Planning has been set up under the chairmanship of the university chancellor. Dubai University College, a private college offering courses up to graduate level, was founded in January 1997. Zayed University, opened in September 1998,, has campuses in Abu Dhabi and Dubai; its mandate is to prepare women for leadership roles in the future growth of the country. It comprises colleges of communication and media sciences, education, arts and sciences, business sciences, family science and information sciences. The language of instruction is English.

Higher Colleges of Technology were established in 1988. Located in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Al Ain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah, these colleges prepare nationals for professional and technological careers in both government and private sectors. Since their foundation, the colleges have grown significantly, with staff and students increasing by about 30 percent each year. For more information, please see their website.

The Centre for Excellence for Applied Research and Training (CERT) runs a countrywide continuing education program for all nationalities. The program has been designed for professional development and personal enrichment for people with an interest in continuing education. Initial projects include one hundred face-to-face instructor-led courses and approximately one hundred online courses through the CERT.

Admission for Foreign Students

Quotas: Some 8 percent of total places are reserved for students from the Arab Gulf region and 7 percent for other foreigners.

Admission Requirements: Students should hold a general secondary school certificate. Gulf students should obtain 60 percent of total marks in the high school certificate for admission to the faculties of engineering and economics; non-Gulf students should obtain 80 percent for admission to any faculty, except engineering where they must obtain 90 percent. For Islamic Studies and Sharia, candidates must be Muslims and must obtain 50 percent of the total marks in the high school certificate. Applications should be made to the university in June.

Children with Special Needs

Handicapped centers supervised by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs cater to those with hearing and physical disabilities, the visually impaired and others with special needs. The Ministry is constantly improving its facilities, at the same time emphasizing the role of the family in caring for the disabled. The percentage of disabled people in the UAE is similar to the worldwide average, i.e., 8 to 10 percent of the population.

Some major new developments are under way, including a large centre in Abu Dhabi with seventy classrooms and twenty training workshops. The Ministry of Education and Youth, together with the Red Crescent Society, also opened a centre for autistic children in Abu Dhabi, the first of a number of such centers planned by the Ministry.



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