The countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have been able to achieve rapid economic growth over the past 40 years, which has largely been the result of vast reserves of oil and gas. However, the 21st century has seen a global shift towards establishing knowledge-based economies, through moving away from the dependence on oil to promoting business, tourism, and other sectors. This has changed the nature of jobs demanded by the labour market in the GCC and has resulted in a radical shift in the type of education that needs to be provided. The consequence of these changes has been an increasing disconnect between the education sector and the labour market, the impact of which is yet to be seen.
This policy paper will look beyond the quantity of education provision in the UAE and focus on how the quality of education can be improved in order to better contribute to economic growth and competitiveness. It will first provide the context for this discussion, followed by a review of the literature on returns to education, paying particular attention the quality of education as a determinant of economic competitiveness. Next, the paper will consider the case of the UAE and will address the missing link between the education system and the labor market. Finally, it will conclude by offering a number of recommendations that could help policymakers improve the quality of education in the UAE in order to create a truly knowledge-based economy.