The new 2006 budget proposes that top priority be given to public and higher education with 37 per cent of the Dh25.74 billion budget to be allocated towards that sector.
In 1994, the government's spending on education was approximately Dh0.25 billion, totalling about 19 per cent of all government expenditure. The government expenses surged gradually over the last 13 years, accounting for 22 per cent of government expenditure in 1997 and 23.1 per cent by 2000.
In 2003 government spending on education was approximately Dh5.5 billion, a 95 per cent increase in expenditure on education over a period of ten years from 1994-2003. With the 2006 planned expenditure, there is a growth of over 73 per cent in only 3 years.
According to government statistics, the current literacy rate for males is about 84 per cent and for females is about 91 per cent while according to United Nations estimates the combined literacy rate for the 15-24 age group is well over 90 per cent. The government is aiming to achieve 100 per cent literacy rate by 2010 at the latest.
With an eye on the future prospects of its citizens, the government through the Ministry of Education has adopted “Education 2020” — a series of five-year plans designed to introduce advanced education techniques, improve innovative skills, and focus more on the self-learning abilities of students.
At the higher education level, more than 10,000 students (62 per cent female) were admitted for the academic year 2004-05. In 1976 UAE University was established in Al Ayn in Abu Dhabi. With nine colleges, it is considered by the UAE government to be the leading teaching and research institution in the country.
In 1988 the first four Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) were opened. At present, 11 all-male campuses offer more than 75 programmes, with a combined enrollment of 15,000 students.
In 1998 Zayed University was opened for women, with campuses in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. In order to accommodate the increasing female enrollment and admit male students (total enrollment by 2017 is expected to increase to 7,000), a major expansion of the university is underway.
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