Strategic plan to implement Emiratisation in banking & insurance industries launched.

 Strategic mechanisms to support and enable national competencies
[UAE, June 8, 2014] – The National Human Resources Development Committee in the Banking Sector (HRDC-BS) is geared up for a more dynamic work and achievement – supported by a scientific approach and international criteria – to strengthen the national competencies and expertise of Emiratis in order to attainsenior management and supervisory positions across the financial and banking sector. The industry is considered one of the fastest growing and successful sectors in the world today.

The announcement came during a recent HRDC meeting headed by H.E. Humaid Mohammed Al Qatami, Minister of Education and Chairman of HRDC. The meeting was attended by committee members.
H.E. Al Qatami said UAE’s remarkable social development and economic growth, which currently ranks high in global competitiveness, are clear indications of the country’s success and progress in terms of complying with the vision and directives of wise leadership and their full support to the financial and banking sector and in terms of meeting all relevant policies and regulations. In addition, high-profile national veterans worked hard to raise the bar on financial and business industries in the country to further accelerate the development and growth that they are witnessing today. This emphasizes our strong national capabilities which HRDC aims to further reinforce.
It also targets to provide the industries with an opportunity to sustain its achievements and to expand their reach and responsibilities. The efforts will boost the implementation of industry policies in the interest of the general public.
H.E. Al Qatami added that leaders from banking and finance, insurance companies, and exchange houses, among others, are fully aware of the important role of HRDC. They also recognize the urgent need to implement the Emiratisation policy in the industry, while encouraging Emirati nationals to take charge and assume responsibilities. Further, they understand that the UAE gives high priority to the financial and banking sector as a cornerstone of sustainable development and of national competencies and skills training.
The HRDC also announced the launching of the Banking Leadership project as part of its commitment to build a generation with extensive skills and capabilities. The competencies will enable them to undertake high management positions in the future, with a closer look at the successful achievements of national banking leaders and their pivotal role in managing financial and banking institutions. Recent industry studies show that banking institutions still lack the presence of national human resources. The number of national senior administrative officials is less than 5 per cent of the total number of nationals working in the banking industry.  Accordingly, HRDC collaborated with international academic institutions for the implementation of the integrated Banking Leadership project, which is poised to produce as many as 400 graduates annually under the highest standards and best international practices.
H.E. Al Qatami added that the committee discussed a variety of topics during the meeting, namely the recent decision to apply Emiratisation in the banking sector; and adoption of the list of members and work plan of the executive committee and committee of studies and research. He assured that the HRDC will continue to follow up on the subject of Emiratisation in banks and insurance companies as well as on relevant resolutions.
He also stressed HRDC’s strong commitment to implement various development plans using modern and professional tools. It will also execute clear policy that complies with market requirements and the needs of banking and insurance companies.
The committee also showcased offerings from leading international companies in the local market. It will also conduct surveys to determine the current status of national employment in the banking and financial segment in a bid to increase the number of Emirati employees in the industry, especially in management and supervisory positions.

Arab World to have more than 197 million Internet users by 2017, according to Arab Knowledge Economy Report.

·        Arab region’s Internet penetration rate to surge from 32 per cent in 2012 to 51 per cent in 2017, according to Madar-Orient Planet report 
·        Current male literacy rate is 85 per cent, while female literacy is only 68 per cent
·        Four Saudi universities & one from Egypt appears in Shanghai Ranking of World Universities
·        Bahrain tops Arab ICT-use Index 2013 with score of 3.08·        UAE posts 65.68 in 2013-2014 Arab e-Performance Index 

[Dubai, May 27, 2014[ – The number of Internet users in the Arab World is expected to reach 197 million by 2017, a penetration of over 51 per cent from 32 per cent in 2012, according to the first ever Arab Knowledge Economy Report 2014. The Report is a joint study done by Madar Research & Development and Orient Planet with an aim to research and examine the components and characteristics of the Arab Knowledge Economy and its contribution towards the overall development of the region’s economy.
The Arab Knowledge Economy Report 2014 focuses on the strengths and weaknesses of the region’s economy along with the opportunities and risks associated with it. The statistics and other valuable information featured in the report could act as an essential guide for government planners, economists as well as local, regional and global business communities in the move to acquire, create, disseminate and use knowledge more effectively for greater economic and social development.
Abdul Kader Al Kamli, CEO, Madar Research & Development, said: “Some of today’s developing countries will be tomorrow’s vibrant economies in the global market, which makes investment in innovation and education critical for transformation to a knowledge-based economy. The shift is highly significant in the Arab World, as it will enable a landscape of technological innovation, promote competitiveness, and empower local population with professional skills. Having realized the importance of knowledge-based economy in the socio-economic growth of a country, the GCC countries have launched their e-Governance programs, while Dubai, on the other hand, have entered into the next phase with the recent launch of Dubai Smart Governance. We are confident that the first Arab Knowledge Economy Report will be a great reference manual for Arab organizations, as they strategically plan their agenda for smooth transition based on knowledge and innovation. The report will also be useful for multinational corporations and businesses operating in the region along with potential investors in achieving outstanding financial growth.”

Nidal Abou Zaki, Managing Director, Orient Planet and Abdul Kader Al Kamli, CEO, Madar Research & Development.

Nidal Abou Zaki, Managing Director, Orient Planet, said: “The 2014 Arab Knowledge Economy Report has been developed with an intention to provide critical and up-to-date information about the region in order to assess its position in terms of forming knowledge economies, which is decisive in formulating the framework to move forward. Our report is especially crucial to the assessment and development of the four major pillars of a knowledge economy; namely, Education and Training, Information Infrastructure, Economic Incentive and Institutional Regime, and Innovation Systems. Most of the Arab countries have made significant progress in establishing a knowledge-based economy and society. With its wealth in natural and financial resources, huge investments in technology infrastructure and visionary leadership, the region is rapidly catching up with progressive countries in terms of digital innovations.”
The report states that the Arab countries are heading towards knowledge economy by improving their education sector through the adoption of new technologies, investment in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure, building firm research and development programs, and improvement in the overall business environment. The public-private partnership (PPP) is required to ensure smooth progress in knowledge related indicators and build an entrepreneurial culture that supports innovation. The UAE leads the Middle East with a global ranking of 38 in overall innovation performance while Dubai is the first city in the region to
establish first knowledge clusters, including Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City and Knowledge Village. The UAE’s transformation to a knowledge-based economy is currently a key priority for the country with several innovations seen across prime economic sectors such as oil & gas, construction, healthcare and hospitality.
Excerpts from 2014 Arab Knowledge Economy Report
GCC GDP and Population Growth
The GCC countries comprise the 12th largest economic region in the world with a recorded Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate of 4.03 per cent in 2013. The GCC also dominates the Arab World with its GDP of USD 1640.83 billion in 2013. Overall, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) ranks first in the GCC and 19thin the world with USD 745.30 billion as GDP, followed by the UAE with a GDP of USD 398.32 billion. 
GCC GDP Per Capita
Qatar, with a population of 1.91 million, emerges as the richest country per capita in the GCC and the second richest in the world with USD 105,169 in 2013, followed by Kuwait with USD 47,265.
GCC Population Growth
In 2013, the GCC witnessed a population growth of 3.68 per cent with Qatar leading at 11.36 per cent, followed by the UAE at 5 per cent due to the large influx of foreign workers. The local population of the UAE and Qatar comprise of 13 per cent and 14 per cent, respectively, of the total population.
Arab Knowledge Economy Index
The UAE topped the Knowledge Economy Index (KEI) among Arab countries, while it stood at 42 globally with a score of 6.94, closely followed by Bahrain at 6.9 and Oman at 6.14.
Patents in Arab Countries
To date, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) have granted 858 patents to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, positioning it 29th in the world. Kuwait is at second place with 272 patents and Egypt at third with 212 patents, so far. 
Arab e-Performance Index
Madar Research & Development and Orient Planet have created a new Arab e-Performance Index based on six important global indexes, which includes the Global Competitiveness Index, Networked Readiness Index (NRI), ICT Development Index (IDI), Global Innovation Index, Knowledge Economy Index (KEI), and e-Government Development Index. For the Arab e-Performance Index for 2013-2014, Bahrain leads the GCC with an average of 66.55 followed by the UAE at 65.68. 
Arab ICT-use Index
Bahrain has topped the 2013 ICT-use Index with a score of 3.08. It has emerged among top five in all the ICT sectors, including first in the Internet user’s rate and second in mobile penetration level in the MENA region. Qatar takes the second place with 2.96, having the third highest mobile penetration and fourth in internet user’s rate.
Arab Internet Population Overview
There were 111,721,020 internet users in 18 Arab countries in 2012, growing at a rate of 18.98 per cent as compared to 93,896,216 in 2011. The number of internet users in the region is expected to increase to about 197 million by 2017. Internet penetration in the Arab world is expected to surge from 32 per cent in 2012 to 51 per cent in 2017, amounting to three per cent above the world average.
Adult Literacy Rate
Adult literacy remains a major hurdle for the development of the information society and knowledge-based economy in the Arab region. In the age group of 15 and above, the literacy rate was nearly 77 per cent in 2011. Six countries, including Qatar’s 96.3 per cent and Jordan’s 95.9 per cent, have shown a success rate of 90 per cent and above for the period with. There is also a huge discrepancy between the male and female literacy rate, wherein the male literacy rate is around 85 per cent and only 68 per cent for females.  
ICT Price Basket as a Percentage of Monthly Minimum Wages
The ICT price basket includes three tariff sets – fixed telephone, mobile phone and fixed broadband internet services. Qatar ranks first in the Arab World and 2nd globally when Gross National Income (GNI) is compared with the ICT price basket, with 0.4 per cent of monthly GNI per capita spent on ICT services. The UAE, on the other hand, ranks 2nd in the Arab World with 0.5 per cent spent on ICT services. When the minimum wage is compared with ICT price basket, Qatar ranks 11thin the Arab World with 12.2 per cent of minimum wage spent on ICT services while the UAE is at the bottom with 15.4 per cent of minimum wage spent on ICT services.
Academic Ranking of Arab Universities
In 2013, five Arab universities, including four from Saudi Arabia and one from Egypt, appeared on the Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities. The universities are the King Saud University, the King Abdul Aziz University, the King Fahd University of Petroleum, and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.

– Ends –

Digital proficiency ensures better options for job seekers

Employers are in dire need for digital skills beyond Office applications
UAE, May 11, 2014 – ICDL GCC Foundation, an organisation dedicated to promoting digital skills and cyber safety for-all across the Gulf region, has revealed that fresh university graduates and job seekers must possess diversified and more ICT skills than ever before, to ensure readiness for today’s job market. According to the European Commission Digital Agenda, 90 per cent of jobs will need at least a reasonable level of ICT skills by 2015, adding that the GCC region is no different from the European market in integrating advanced technologies into the workplace.

ICDL pointed out that today’s job market requirements are no longer limited to the basic computer knowledge of the commonly used office applications. It, now, focuses on one’s proficiency in cloud computing, IT security, social media, online collaboration tools and project planning. That said, progress at the school and higher education levels are required to keep up with the region’s fast technological progress, to enable the educational system to provide graduates with the demands of the 21stcentury workplace.
The ICT landscape is changing at a rapid pace, evidenced by the introduction of technologies relevant to cloud computing, cyber safety, IT security, social media, collaboration, and web meeting. Employers in the public and private sectors are pushing to leverage these technologies in order to become more cost-efficient and customer service-oriented. These changes have also brought about drastic shifts in the GCC’s job market.
In a world where even job seeking is increasingly changing, a job seeker must possess the skills to leverage ICT in the job search. A job seeker must be able to use the available online search tools, upload a CV on the various job portals, and utilize the popular social media platforms.
According to a digital literacy survey provided in 2013 Prince’s Trust Report, one in 10 unemployed young individuals cannot even send their CV online, while more than one in six believe they would be in work today if they had better computer skills. With this alarming problem facing the world’s job seekers, let alone our own, the education system must prepare teachers to deliver the needed skills to students and must incorporate practical ICT training in the curricula before students graduate.
Jamil Ezzo, Director General of ICDL GCC Foundation, said: “Being ready for today’s job market requires a bit more than knowledge in using the Internet, email and the common office applications. Employers are demanding ICT skills that are aligned with the latest technologies, they are employing. The education system in the GCC must keep up with these technological developments and fully understand the region’s job market demands to ensure that graduates are ready with the skills to be able to take the first step in their careers.”   
“ICDL GCC Foundation has been working in collaboration with qualification and educational regulators to implement various internationally recognized computer certification programs that help UAE Nationals to be skilled, re-skilled and up skilled in line with the latest international trends in ICT training and certification. As the GCC countries moves towards knowledge-based economy, it is imperative the Nationals are trained with the latest digital skills for functional industry experience to give a boost to the policy of Nationalization”, Ezzo concluded.

Driven by the emerging trends and latest technologies, ICDL has revealed recently a new structure for its ICT certification offering prospective employees as well as employers the flexibility, diversity and relevance to acquire the ICT skills they need. The New ICDL has been widely reviewed and accepted by schools around the world and particularly in the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain.  

Pearson Commits to Improving English Language Learning Outcomes in Arab World.

Uptake of English language and national economic prosperity linked
Dubai, UAE, 17 April 2014:An English language expert from Pearson, the world’s largest learning company, says English language instruction in the Arab world should be measurably improving the learning outcomes of English language students in the region.

Dr John de Jong, Pearson’s Senior Vice President for Standards and Quality and Chair in Language Testing at Amsterdam’s VU University, says that Pearson is publically committed to ensuring all its products and services have a positive impact on advancing the educational results of those that use them. Dr de Jong says that this ‘Efficacy Commitment’ is particularly important for Pearson’s English language portfolio, which is used by millions of learners around the world.
“At present, there are approximately two billion people around the globe who are learning English – that means it is incredibly important that English language products and services are effective in making a real difference to the lives of those that use them. The portion of those two billion people who are using Pearson products and services can be assured that their products and services are being reviewed against rigorous, objective efficacy standards. For example, a recent efficacy review of Pearson’s English language learning programmes has led to more sophisticated data and learning analytics being employed in these programmes, driving far greater personalisation – and ultimately leading to enhanced learning outcomes for those using the programmes”.
Dr de Jong was in Dubai recently presenting at the Global Education Forum. He used the opportunity to illustrate the new Global Scale of English (GSE), a Pearson initiative that fits with the company’s commitment to demonstrably improving learning outcomes. The GSE and the associated measurement instrument, Progress, allow for a more detailed, personalised assessment of an English learners’ level of ability, helping educators to more accurately target their learners’ specific learning needs and areas for improvement. The GSE has been designed to give a more precise portrayal of a learner’s level and progress than other systems that are currently available. Dr de Jong says the aim is to encourage the profiling of learners, rather than classifying them by level.
“Maximising the uptake of English language skills is becoming increasingly important, particularly in countries like the UAE, where school leavers and graduates with strong English abilities are more likely to succeed in the world of work.  It is undoubtedly true that in today’s world being able to use English will open up the world to an individual, helping them (amongst other things) perform well in international business communications”.
Dr de Jong also says that a country’s success in the world economy largely depends on whether that country can improve the overall level of English amongst its student population.
“Those Arab countries that have the fastest growing economies and where international trade and commerce are having the greatest positive effects on the lives of citizens are where English language is being taught effectively throughout all levels of the education system. There is a clear relationship between how many people in a country speak English and how fast that country is moving ahead in economic terms. This is evident in the UAE where people have remarkably high levels of English. The country has decided that it wants to be open to the world but understands that in order to do so a significant percentage of the population must be able to speak the language of the world – English. What Pearson wants to do is help ensure the English learning that is taking place is as effective as possible and is having the greatest possible impact on improving the lives of learners. Pearson is realising this goal by placing greater emphasis on definition of learning outcomes in the English education field – making it easier to measure the impact of the learning taking place and powering data-driven decision making”.
About Pearson:
Pearson is the world’s largest learning company, operating in more than 80 countries around the world, bringing powerful learning solutions to millions of learners every year. Pearson takes learning personally. Our courses and resources are available in print, online and through multi-lingual packages, helping people learn whatever, wherever and however they choose. Our education imprints combine 150 years of experience and include online support for every learner.  Our innovative and dynamic digital learning products and services are changing the learning landscape all around the globe and our qualifications are positively transforming the futures of learners of all ages and backgrounds.  Pearson can boast a comprehensive English Language offering that consists of engaging content and cutting edge testing solutions. To find out more, visit

ICDL GCC Foundation supports 2014 Safer Internet Day.

Reiterates concern about safety of cyber citizens as part of celebration
]UAE, February 10, 2014[The ICDL GCC Foundation, an organisation that promotes digital skills and cyber safety across the Gulf region and Iraq, has extended its support to the “2014 Safer Internet Day”, an annual global campaign promoting the safe and responsible use of online technology, especially among youth. This year’s event will be celebrated in over 100 countries tomorrow, February 11, 2014, under the theme ‘Let’s create a better internet together.’ It will focus on the online domain, which has emerged the latest and the best medium for information, communication and entertainment, and will discuss the roles and responsibilities of internet users in creating a safer cyber world.

As a staunch advocate of cyber safety, ICDL GCC Foundation continuously conducts campaigns on safe Internet etiquettes, digital safety education and appropriate online behavior. It has recently launched Cyber Safety Workshops targeting law enforcement, government, educational, teachers, parents and youth across the GCC. The Foundation has also distributed to students among many schools in the region free guidebooks on 101 tips on Internet etiquettes and the responsible use of social media and other smart technologies. The pocket guide, which was distributed for example in UAE in cooperation with the Ministry of Interior’s Child Protection Center, was aimed at educating children along with their parents and teachers about cyber safety. 
Jamil Ezzo, Director General of ICDL GCC Foundation, said: “Our increasing reliance on Internet in our daily life has spurred considerable growth in cyber crimes, with children and youth the most vulnerable group to these threats. ICDL has always championed greater awareness on cyber safety and advocated for the implementation of stringent laws to the concerned authorities. By supporting “Safer Internet Day 2014”, we reiterate our concern for the safety of cyber citizens. Through our workshops and programs, which we organize on a regular basis, we strive to empower all Internet users, particularly children, in the region with Internet best practices to avoid all forms of cyber threats.”
Safer Internet Day is organized by Insafe, a network of European Safer Internet Centers, to encourage safe and positive use of the internet and digital technologies. It started in 2004 as an initiative of the EU Safe Boarders project and gradually gained popularity across the globe. Now in its 11thedition, Safer Internet Day is expected to be celebrated by over 10 million people worldwide.  For more information, log on to:

ICDL GCC Foundation has been spearheading regional initiatives to place IT security and cyber-safety at the top of government agendas across the region. It has been supporting a wide scale implementation of awareness programs including skills validation through training and international certification programs centering on IT Security, Cyber Safety and the effective, safe, responsible and mindful use of Social Media. The Foundation continues to collaborate closely with the concerned authorities and experts to further elevate the level of awareness among the public.

World’s Largest Mobile App Competition Comes to MENA.

Pearson and Silatech fostering innovation amongst the region’s youth
Dubai, UAE, 28 October 2013: Young people in the Middle East and North Africa are being given the opportunity to showcase their technical and entrepreneurship skills through the Arab Mobile App Challenge, part of the world’s largest competition for mobile app design and development.

The Arab Mobile App Challenge is part of the annual, global Mobile App Challenge run by the United States’ Applied Innovation Institute. The competition is being brought to the region for the first time by Silatech, a not-for-profit initiative that works to create jobs and expand opportunities for young people throughout the Arab world. Pearson, the world’s largest education company, is a major sponsor of the competition in the Middle East and North Africa.
Competition participants will work in teams to design a mobile app that can be used by the entertainment, health, education or employability industries. Entrants will be judged on the design of their business model, as well as the presentation and the innovative utility of the app itself. Teams making it through the first round of the competition will be given substantial support from technical and business experts from leading local and international companies, helping them create dynamic and innovative apps. Mentors from across relevant industries will work closely with the teams to develop app ideas into viable business start-ups.
Competition finalists from across the Arab world will be selected to compete in the regional final, which will be held in Qatar in February, 2014. Prizes include US$50,000 for first prize, US$30,000 for second prize and US$20,000 for third prize. Winners from the MENA region will also have their costs paid to attend the international finals of the competition to be held at the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona.
Silatech and Pearson are calling on tech-savvy, potential entrepreneurs under the age of 30 to find out more about the Challenge. To register or for further information about the Challenge entrepreneurs can visit:
Dana Shaddad, Senior Project Manager, from Silatech, says the Challenge will play an important role in nurturing young entrepreneurs in the Arab world.
“There is a strong need throughout MENA to promote innovation and entrepreneurship amongst young people to support future economic growth and social stability. The percentage of the population under the age of 30 in MENA countries is growing at a rapid rate – but so are youth unemployment figures. We need to channel the potential of this large number of young people in the region into positive, income generating activities. Fostering technological talent through competitions such as the Arab Mobile App Challenge is an excellent way to do this. Encouraging successful new start-up businesses will have the dual effect of fuelling the private sector and generating new jobs – outcomes welcomed by governments and individuals across the Arab world”.
Pearson’s Haseeb Khan, a competition mentor, says Pearson chose to support the Challenge because developing educational and employability opportunities by harnessing technology is an issue Pearson has been closely involved with.
“Pearson has been working with educators, employers and young people in the Middle East and North Africa to create educational solutions that make real changes to individuals and their communities. Our work has shown us that there is a need for technology-driven solutions that give learners more than just knowledge, but skills that make learners ready to perform in the workplace. By supporting the Challenge, we hope that we can help develop young peoples’ technological and entrepreneurial capacities, and make them well prepared for their future careers – in either the public or private sectors”.
About Pearson:

Pearson is the world’s largest learning company, operating in more than 80 countries around the world, bringing powerful learning solutions to millions of learners every year. Pearson takes learning personally. Our courses and resources are available in print, online and through multi-lingual packages, helping people learn whatever, wherever and however they choose. Our education imprints combine 150 years of experience and include online support for every learner.  Our innovative and dynamic digital learning products and services are changing the learning landscape all around the globe and our qualifications are positively transforming the futures of learners of all ages and backgrounds.  Pearson can boast a comprehensive English Language offering that consists of engaging content and cutting edge testing solutions. To find out more, visit 

Education Key to Reducing Youth Unemployment.

 International experts agree education levels and employment rates closely linked
Dubai, UAE, 28 September 2013: Pearson, the world’s largest education company, welcomes the findings of the Organisation for Economic Development (OCED) 2013 Education at a Glance report, which examines the relationship between an education, employment and earnings.

Education at a Glance 2013 found that 15 to 29 year olds have been hit particularly hard by the global recession, with unemployment amongst this group averaging 16 per cent in OECD countries. This international trend is also reflected in the Gulf region, where youth unemployment rates are also higher than overall unemployment rates.
Pearson’s Regional Director for Qualifications, Mark Andrews, believes that education can play a role in reversing the youth unemployment trend in the region. Mr Andrews points to the findings of the OECD report that education has a huge impact on employability, and that the global economic crisis has strengthened this impact even further. He says:
“Research Pearson has undertaken in the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia demonstrates the link between an individual’s education level and their chances of finding meaningful, well paid work. Anecdotal evidence from local employers shows there are many positions in the region that cannot be filled because applicants for these positions do not have the requisite skills. This comes at a time when youth unemployment rates in the region are at record highs. Therefore we can assume that by better equipping young job seekers with the skills and qualifications in demand by employers, the youth unemployment rate can be reduced”.
In 2012 Pearson undertook a massive international project entitled the Learning Curve to better understand the factors that contribute to a country’s educational performance and effectiveness of its workforce. It is hoped that the Learning Curve research will help governments and education providers make more informed decisions about where to best invest resources to produce better outcomes for both individuals and wider society.   
The Learning Curve report indicated that although notoriously difficult to quantify, governments in most countries recognise a link between the knowledge and skills with which young people enter the workforce and long-term economic competitiveness. Education seems to correlate with a host of personal benefits, from longer life to higher income. At a national level, too, education and income appear to go together. Finding the type of education that leads to the best economic outcomes, however, is far from straightforward.
Mr Andrews is quick to point out that there is no single solution for better labour market outcomes, and that the type of education an individual receives can have an effect on their employability.
“Our industry consultation and statistical research has also shown us that there is a wide gap between the number of young people graduating with vocational qualifications and the needs of employers across a number of industries including hospitality and tourism, construction, retail and telecommunications. This is in a large part due to the negative perception vocational education has in this region. However, this perception needs to change if we want to reduce youth unemployment here, and lessen the skills gap. What many people do not appreciate is a vocational qualification can lead to a high salary and job security”.
The OECD’s Education at a Glance report also found the role strong vocational qualifications can play in enhancing an individual’s employment prospects. The study found that countries with a higher-than-average proportion of graduates from vocational programmes were able to keep the increases in unemployment rates among this age group to below 8 per cent points while countries where less than 25% of young adults graduate from vocational education, saw increases in unemployment rates of 12 per cent.
Mr Andrews says that there are lessons to be learnt from the OECD report for the Gulf region.
“Countries all around the world are trying hard to overcome the challenges brought on by the global recession. One key lesson we have learnt from the economic crisis is that new, innovative, educational solutions will help young people enter the workplace more easily and contribute more effectively. A first class vocational qualification gives learners the skills they need for career success in the 21st century and vocational education can also help economies and countries recover from the severe economic stresses of recent years”.


Value of Vocational Education Underestimated in the Arab World

Regional education initiatives need to better correspond with labour market demands
Amman, Jordan, Dubai, UAE, 3 September 2013: The 7th Arab Human Resources Management and Training Conference was held in Amman this week under the Patronage of Jordan’s Minister of Public Sector Development, Dr Khlaif Al Khawaldeh. The Conference brought together global experts in education and training to discuss the readiness of the region’s labour force for the future of work in the Arab world.

Conference participants debated how to create a future, regional workforce that will meet the demands of 21st century employers and add value to the region’s economies. 
Ramiz Haddadin, Pearson’s Senior Business Development Manager in the Middle East, who represented Pearson at the Conference, said vocational education will be critical to building advanced economies in the Arab World, and needs to become a priority for regional governments looking to create high performance, global workforces. Mr Haddadin says that the value of vocational education has been traditionally overlooked by Arab students and their parents.
“Vocational training has often been seen as a lesser alternative to an academic education. Many people believe that vocational courses will lead to jobs that have lower wages and poorer conditions than their academic counterparts. Traditionally, a vocational qualification will not be considered as prestigious as a qualification from a university. However, this is actually no longer the case, as vocational qualifications are now recognised by prestigious international employers and learning institutions, and can lead to increasingly well paid positions with excellent prospects for career advancement”.
Employers in the Arab world have also called for more vocationally trained graduates, as the region faces a skills crisis in many industries, including the engineering, construction and hospitality sectors of the economy. A 2010 International Labor Organisation (ILO) report found that many private organisations in the region often had difficulty recruiting employees with the skills necessary for business expansion or the adoption of new technologies. Pearson’s discussions with regional business leaders have shown many fear there are not enough workers from vocational backgrounds to fill the increasing number of positions being created by Arab governments’ efforts to build highly developed, diversified economies.
However, while regional employers call for more skilled workers, rates of youth unemployment and workplace participation in the region are some of the worst in the world. Youth unemployment, which is as high as 30 per cent in some Arab countries, is costing the region between US$40 and US$50 billion a year. With the youth population in the Arab World set to magnify over the coming decade, this is an alarming predicament for regional decision makers, who understand the deadline they face in reversing this trend.  
Job creation and education seem to be the two most obvious solutions to the region’s unemployment figures. However, education levels in the region have grown dramatically in recent years, with many countries in the region able to boast universal primary enrolment and literacy rates approaching 100 per cent. In addition, job creation has also been on the rise in many Arab countries.
The problem is that young people are choosing education paths that do not necessarily lead to employment. More and more students from across the Arab World are now completing their secondary and tertiary education, yet their prospects for employment have not improved. University graduates now face a reality where there is an oversupply of tertiary educated job seekers in the labour market. Young Arabs are not choosing education pathways that give them the skills or knowledge demanded by employers in the sectors most in need of skilled labour. This can be in part attributed to many Arab students’ pursuance of education pathways that lead to careers in the public service, highly sort after because of the generous remuneration packages and conditions they offer.
Mr Haddadin believes that increased opportunities for young Arabs to pursue a vocational education will have the two-fold effect of decreasing the region’s youth unemployment rate and reducing the skills gap. However he acknowledges that vocational education is by no means a panacea for the complex educational challenges facing the region, but part of a much wider solution. He also points out that vocational education will only have a positive impact on employment statistics if the vocational programmes offered meet stringent independent standards. He says:
“Vocational programmes should be internationally recognised and accredited against global quality standards. Vocational programmes should also be developed in close consultation with industry so that course content is an accurate reflection of the types of skills and knowledge demanded by employers”.
Lack of access to quality vocational programmes is a problem experienced by students and employers beyond the Arab region, and is a challenge for educators and policy makers around the world. A 2011 review of the United Kingdom’s vocational system, known as the Wolf Report, found the standard of vocational and technical training in the country was inadequate for a modern economy. Michael Gove, the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for Education said in the Report that this was “a special tragedy, because we know that encouraging genuine, high-quality, vocational education can guarantee access to further and higher education and rewarding employment”.

Mr Haddadin agrees: “The burgeoning youth population of the Arab World is a great economic opportunity for the region. If we can equip our young people with the right education there is no stopping what they will be able to achieve. By providing our youth with a learning path that will lead to a rewarding and secure career we are not only helping individuals, we are helping guarantee the long-term economic and social prosperity of the wider region”. 

Pearson offers new qualification to minimise impact on local learners.

Pearson-Edexcel Respond to UK’s A Level Changes with New Qualification
London, UK, Dubai, UAE, 29th May, 2013: Edexcel, part of the world’s leading education company, Pearson, has announced a new qualification which will help minimise any disruption experienced by schools and students in the Gulf region as a result of the UK Government and Ofqual’s A Level changes.

The UK’s Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove has introduced sweeping reforms to A Level courses and exams which lead to the General Certificate of Education. The systemic changes will change the way many A Level students in the GCC undertake their exams, says Mark Andrews, Pearson’s Regional Director of the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
Under the changes, the January examination series has been removed, offering reduced re-sit opportunities. Modular assessment, a key feature of A Levels, is being replaced by linear assessment, where examinations will need to be taken at the end of the course.
However, the launch of Pearson’s new Edexcel International Advanced Level qualification will allow schools in the Gulf region to carry on offering both January and June exams, and to continue to offer a modular assessment structure in all the major A Level subjects, except for English.
A Levels,the most common gateway into UK universities and other higher education institutions, are the courses undertaken by students in the final two years of their secondary education, both in the UK, and in many other countries. The qualifications are recognised by universities around the world, making A Levels a popular choice for students in the Gulf region who want an internationally recognised qualification that is valued by universities in both the GCC, the UK and beyond.
Pearson currently offers its Edexcel GCE A Levels in schools throughout the GCC region. A significant number of these schools and their students have voiced concerns over the Secretary of State for Education’sreforms and what the changes will mean for their results.  Pearson is responding by developinga new suite of International Advanced Level qualifications for international customers that closely resembles the structure and format of Edexcel GCE A Levels.
Mr Andrews says that the Pearson Edexcel International Advanced Level qualifications are a positive alternative for schools who do not want to introduce the compulsory changes to the GCE A Levels. The quality and substance of the old and new programmes are almost identical, but the new qualification allows schools to continue to offer modular assessment, as well as June and January exams. He says:
“The new qualifications will allow students to continue to sit modular exams twice a year, and to undertake assessments at the end of each of their units. The subject content of the InternationalAdvanced Levels is closely matched to that of the current Edexcel GCE A Level courses, allowing schools to teach the new qualificationsusing their existing resources and reducing the stress usually involved in introducing new qualifications.
“Edexcel International Advanced Level qualifications have been written to the same rigorous standards as Edexcel GCE A levels, ensuring the qualifications are of the highest quality.”
Pearson has consulted the Russell Group, an advisory group of leading UK universities,during the development of the new International Advanced Levels to ensure they are written to the standard required for entry to universities in the UK and overseas.  Studentsachieving a Pearson Edexcel International Advanced Level will have a qualification that is recognised as a suitable alternative to the current Edexcel GCE A level and therefore valued by higher education institutions around the world.
Mr Andrews was keen to stress that schools currently offering the Pearson Edexcel GCE A Level can continue to do so, and Pearson will work closely with them to ensure the effects of the compulsory changes are kept to a minimum. Schools have the opportunity to offer both the Pearson Edexcel GCE A Level and the Pearson Edexcel International Advanced Level qualification if they wish.
Mr Andrews says: “It’s a question of maximising our partners’ choices.  We want our centres here to know that they can continue to offer the Pearson Edexcel GCE A Levels, and that Pearson is committed to helping them adjust to the linear exam system and the removal of theJanuary examination series. We are communicating with schools regularly and meeting withprincipals, to help them through this transitional periodand to support them in making a decision regarding which qualifications would work best for their school and students”.
The new International Advanced Level qualifications are available from September 2013. For more information on subject specifications, please visit:

New global report holds lessons for the GCC.

Governments and Universities Urged to Prepare for an Avalanche of Change in Higher Education
London, UK, Dubai, UAE, 5 May 2013: The next fifty years could be a golden age for higher education, according to a new report published by the UK’s leading progressive think tank, the Institute for Public Policy and Research (IPPR). Sir Michael Barber and his colleagues Katelyn Donnelly and Saad Rizvi, authors of the new report, say this will only happen if all the players in the system seize the initiative and act ambitiously.

Lead author, Sir Michael Barber, is Chief Education Adviser at Pearson and former advisor to the UK’s former Prime Minister, Tony Blair. In the new report, “An Avalanche is Coming”, he and his co-authors describe an era of intense pressure on universities driven by globalisation, technology, rising student expectations, competition for funding and new, disruptive entrants.
The report holds significant meaning for both governments and universities in the Gulf region, as higher education institutions in the GCC face growing challenges in providing relevant educational solutions in an increasingly competitive global environment.
Writing in the report, Sir Michael Barber says: “Our belief is that the models of higher education that marched triumphantly across the globe in the second half of the 20th Century require radical and urgent transformation. Our fear is that the nature of change is incremental and the pace of change too slow.”
Lawrence Summers, former US Treasury Secretary and former President of Harvard, says in a foreword to the report that it “poses profound questions for leaders of higher education.” The report challenges every player in the higher education system to act boldly and urgently.
The report raises important issues for those influencing decisions in higher education in the Gulf, including the need for governments to rethink their regulatory and funding regimes, which were designed for an era when university systems were national. In the era of globalisation, government ministries need to consider big questions, including:
  • How can they fund and support part-time students?
  • How can governments incentivise the connection between universities and cities that can stimulate innovation and economic development?
  • As universities compete on a global stage, do governments have a role in ensuring that their domestic universities survive and thrive?
Finding a niche
The report also stresses the need for each university to be clear which niches or segments it wants to serve, and what will set its educational experience and impact apart. Multipurpose universities with a combination of a wide range of degrees and a broad research programme are likely to face considerable challenges. The report argues that the traditional university faces the threat of being ‘unbundled’ as it competes with more specialised institutions, online learning systems, training providers and consultancies.
Some will need to specialise in teaching alone –and move away from the traditional lecture to the multi-faced teaching possibilities now available:
  • The elite university
  • The mass university
  • The niche university
  • The local university
  • The lifelong learning mechanism
Citizens need to seize the opportunity to learn and relearn throughout their lives. They need to be ready to take personal responsibility both for themselves and the world around them. Every citizen is a potential student and a potential creator of employment.
Region striving to stay ahead of the higher education revolution
Pearson has been working closely with governments and higher education institutions in the Gulf to help them stay relevant to modern students’ needs, and up-to-date with the latest developments in information technology in the education sector.
Pearson’s Vice President of Higher Education and Applied Learning in the region, Mr Fadi Khalek says that there are some key ways universities in the GCC have kept abreast of international developments and student demands. He says: “Firstly, higher education institutions here have maintained the professional development of their staff by offering regular workshops, symposia and conferences, all of which support faculty development in areas relating to academic transformation. Secondly, many of these same institutions have taken up our course and curriculum re-design services, to accompany their moves towards mobile and personalized learning; as well taking advantage of Pearson’s mobile based assessments and adaptive learning solutions.
“We have also been collaborating to offer custom content design, and development and management services to institutions, so they can cater to all future learning needs, including mobile, blended and modular. It is our goal to establish Pearson’s Middle East technology infrastructure so that all our customers across the region have access to the very best of Pearson’s dynamic and innovative solutions for higher education”.
Challenges of GCC Universities Echoed Around the Globe
There are three fundamental challenges facing systems not only in the Gulf region, but all round the world:
1.     How can universities and new providers ensure education for employability? This challenge is pertinent for decision makers in the GCC, where youth unemployment rates are amongst the highest in the world, and employers consistently complain of the lack of relevant work skills amongst university graduates.
2.     How can the link between cost and quality be broken? At present, the authors claim, global rankings of universities in effect equate all inputs with output. They put a premium on research volumes which have little or no impact on the student experience or student outcomes. Only universities which have build up vast research capacity and low student-teacher ratios can come out on top in global rankings. Yet in the era of modern technology, when students can individually and collectively create knowledge themselves, outstanding quality without high fixed costs is plausible and desirable. New entrants are effectively barred from entry and the authors argue that a new university ranking focused on learner outcomes is required.
3.   How does the entire learning ecosystem need to change to support alternative providers and the future of work? The authors cite examples of a new breed of learning providers that emphasize learning by practice and mentorship. It argues that systematic changes are necessary to embed these successful companies on a wider scale.
Notes to editors
The new report – An Avalanche Is Coming: higher education and the revolution ahead – is co-authored by Sir, 2013 Michael Barber, Katelyn Donnelly and Saad Rizvi and was published on Monday 11th March.
The report is now available at and