Opportunities for students to improve their higher education and career prospects can be slim in the Arab world, where many schools emphasize classwork and exam results and fail to furnish young people with the life skills needed to navigate their future. As a result, some students find they know little about universities or the job market as they approach the next step.
The Covid-19 crisis has compounded the problem, with students cut off from teachers and unable to visit campuses or meet university advisors. But digital uptake across the region has accelerated during the pandemic, and new opportunities have emerged online.
The Al Ghurair Young Thinkers Program, an online portal that offers courses and advice to help young Emirati and Arab students prepare for university and future work, is one of them.
“The digital literacy of youth in the region was something we had (initially) overestimated, says Nesma Farahat, an education program manager at the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education, which created the platform. “Covid has encouraged more young people to come online and become digitally savvy,” she says.
The foundation, based in Dubai, offers scholarships and skills training to underserved students across the Arab region. Farahat runs its Young Thinkers Program.
Advice That Fits Arab Students’ Needs
“We wanted to do something that was specifically for the youth of the U.A.E. … [to] fill some major gaps when young people were transitioning from high school to university and from university to the workplace,” Farahat says.
Working alongside a team at Arizona State University, one of the leading online education providers in the United States, the foundation developed a digital platform with components designed to meet the challenges faced by Arab students searching for advice.
Globally, there’s a big gap between skills development and acquisition, Farahat says, highlighting in particular the discrepancy between the changing world of work and the teaching of 21st century skills for success among Arab youth. “We wanted to help young people make better decisions,” she says.