Education expert: Regional workforce development depends on improvements to vocational training.

Gulf Education Conference and Exhibition Examines Importance of Vocational Education
Dubai, UAE, 22 March 2015: Delegates at the Gulf Education Conference and Exhibition have heard continued development of the GCC’s workforce depends on improving the quality and accessibility of vocational education in the region.

The Conference, held in Dubai, has brought together Education Ministers from across the region, along with global experts in education. The focus of this year’s event has been on vocational education and employer engagement with education providers – issues of great relevance to governments and educators throughout the region.
Sue Parker, Principal of Saudi Arabia’s Pearson TQ Colleges of Excellence in Buraidah, Mecca and Madinah, led a panel discussion at the Conference, calling for greater emphasis to be placed on vocational education in the development of the region’s education systems. Ms Parker said:
“For years now, employers have complained that new workforce entrants are ill-prepared for the demands of modern, globally orientated workforces. At the heart of the problem is a mismatch between supply and demand – that is, the type of workers education systems are producing, and the type of workers employers need. For too long, vocational education has been neglected in the region, as our young people follow education paths that fail to align with governments’ economic goals or boost productivity in the labour force. There is a clear need for a greater number of vocationally qualified graduates in the workforce, skilled in key industries, from oil and gas to building and construction. The lack of suitably qualified candidates available is in part to blame for the region’s higher than average rates of youth unemployment and underemployment, and is having a detrimental impact on the ability of Arab governments to achieve their long-term economic visions”.
Ms Parker says lessons learnt in other countries act as a useful guide in helping the GCC overcome educational and employment challenges.
“Singapore has one of the best vocational systems in the world, but this has not always been the case. Singapore invested heavily in linking educational programmes with employer needs, and importantly, on raising the status of vocational education amongst the population. Vocational education suffers from an unfortunate stigma, where it is seen as a lesser alternative to university. However, what we are seeing in the GCC is that those students who undertake recognized vocational qualifications often find meaningful work faster than those who have undertaken a university degree, and achieve quicker career progression and report greater job satisfaction”.
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GCC poised to increase use of ‘smart’ devices in classrooms to 100 per cent by 2017

GCC education sector’s IT investment total to USD 616 million
  
UAE, March 9, 2015 According to a recent study, the GCC’s education sector is set to increase the use of ‘smart’ devices for teaching and learning purposes to 100 percent by 2017. ICDL Arabia, the governing body and certification authority for the ICDL certificate program in Egypt, GCC States and Iraq, has welcomed this move, stating that the increased use of information and communications technology (ICT) will help in delivering quality education and raising the bar in line with international standards.

The GCC education sector witnessed investment in the region of USD 616 million, accounting for nearly 2.3 per cent of total investments, and is expected to grow at an annual rate of the GCC 10.4 per cent between 2013 and 2017. This is at par with global IT investment in the education sector which is set at 2.5 per cent or USD 51 billion. Over 90 per cent of the region’s educational institutions utilize laptops and tablets in order to transform from a teacher to a learner -centric learning approach.
Jamil Ezzo, Director General, ICDL Arabia, said: “ICDL Arabia commends the GCC education sector’s move towards ‘smart’ literacy to ensure a more informative and interactive way of learning. The use of ICT technology in schools and educational institutions will also mean an increased utilization of ‘smart’ devices for transfer of knowledge from teachers to students. Such a move should be supported by appropriate training programs of teachers for a successful transition so that they quickly adapt to the new changes in their educational environment and curriculum.”  
Nationwide, the UAE Ministry of Education has expanded its programme to bring ‘smart’ learning to classrooms for the 2014-2015Academic Year, providing almost 25,000 students with tablets. Nearly 123 more schools will be integrated under the three-year programme which has been allocated a budget of AED 253 million and will conclude in September 2015. The government has plans to integrate all its 440 public schools with ‘smart’ technology by 2020. Qatar, on the other hand, has earmarked USD 7.2 billion for its education sector in 2014 with a 100 per cent increase for the next five years. Lastly, Kuwait’s expenditure on education is expected to touch USD 8.3 billion by 2016.
ICDL has worked closely with a number of educational and vocational standards authorities across the world and designed a certification program specifically for educators so that they are able to employ mobile devices in the class room. The program offers a range of skills involving smart devices such as smart boards, projectors, personal computers and tablets. In addition, the new ICDL skills program combines skills in IT Security and Online Collaboration so that teachers can guide students on the safe and secure use of modern devices and social media.

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