Persistence in the Abu Dhabi STEM Pipeline
Mohammed bin Rashid School of Government (MBRSG), a research and educational institution specialized in public policy in the Arab world, has collaborated with Emirates Foundation to launch a report titled Persistence in the Abu Dhabi STEM Pipeline, which discusses and debates current trends of student choices related to studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in high schools and universities in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.
The report offers an in-depth understanding of the factors and challenges that influence students' choices in selecting STEM subjects. Analyzing why Emirati students choose humanities and social sciences over science tracks in high school, the report also explains what motivates students to continue with STEM majors in university, or to pursue careers that have STEM subjects at the core. In addition, the report offers recommendations to governments, schools, universities, and the industry on how to strengthen the STEM pipeline.
MBRSG also commissioned a field study that included surveying and collating the views of a large number of high school and university students in Abu Dhabi. The results of the survey for high schools showed that less than a quarter of students (22.94%) intended to pursue STEM subjects at university. This despite the fact that nearly 80% of students polled reported that they did find math and science classes interesting and nearly 90% of the respondents consider themselves good in math and science.
The university students’ survey showed that 57% of students studying STEM subjects received institutional support in finding STEM internships and part time work. 83% of students believed that jobs related to the STEM subjects in the market today are of a high quality and caliber. In addition, 88% of the students surveyed from STEM programs were optimistic about finding jobs in that market and 89% reported that they did feel well prepared to enter the job market.
The report further indicated that university students were generally satisfied with the quality of their STEM education, although satisfaction with career opportunities and guidance was markedly lower than satisfaction with instructors and curricula.
His Excellency, Dr Ali Sebaa Al Marri, Executive President, MBRSG, said: “This report is very important due to the vital role that STEM subjects play in achieving the ambitious goals of the UAE Vision 2021, which aims to build a competent national workforce that effectively contributes towards shaping a diversified knowledge-based economy. Enhanced capabilities in STEM disciplines are integral to efficiently facing future challenges and driving development.”
He added: “The purpose of the report is to call upon policy makers to develop tools and programs that support Emirati students and enhance their creative abilities in subjects considered key pillars for the future development of the UAE. This is especially important as the UAE seeks to advance its ranking in sectors such as industry, space exploration, renewable energy and other non-traditional sectors. Having a competent and well-equipped workforce is not an option, it is imperative to achieving our greater national ambitions.”
The report concludes with a number of recommendations that cover the role of schools, universities, government and the industry, which include providing special funds for STEM education, establishing encouraging and innovative learning environments and offering sustained support for students to pursue these disciplines. The report proposes creating a competitive environment that encourages students’ innovation in STEM through instituting scholarships, awards and competitions. It also highlights the importance of sponsoring talented students to develop their potential in ways that help meet the demands of the labor market.
Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government is committed to promoting good governance through enhancing the region’s capacity for effective public policy. The school uses a four-pronged approach, which includes applied research in public policy and management, academic programs in public policy and administration, executive education programs and knowledge forums for scholars and policy makers.