In its 2021 Vision, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government prioritizes the development of a “knowledge economy” to replace its current oil-driven one. National human capital must be fostered in order to fuel this transformation, and developing human capital involves building the skills and knowledge that drive cutting-edge entrepreneurship and innovation. Therefore, the Vision highlights the need to develop a new generation of creative and critical thinkers—citizens who are able to hone their conceptual abilities to raise the UAE’s international status to that of one of the most advanced countries in the world.
This paper emphasizes the integral role that literacy plays in the achievement of the Vision. An overview of reading and literacy theories highlights the different levels of understanding crucial to building the human capital on which a knowledge economy depends. It also explores the symbiotic relationship between literacy and critical thinking before reviewing international best practices related to promoting literacy. Familiarity with both literacy theory and best practices for the promotion of literacy informs recommendations for the UAE’s policymakers as they work to strengthen the nation’s existing knowledge society.