HTS 2041: The Modern Middle East

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A Good Education And A Job

When people think about the Middle East and its economy, the first thing that comes to mind, usually, is oil. Although oil does play an important role in the economy of the Middle East, human capital is another important factor that I seldom hear people talk about. Human capital can be defined as the skills, knowledge, and experience possessed by an individual or population, viewed in terms of their value or cost to an organization or country. In order to raise human capital countries usually establish and improve upon educational institutions in order to better the capabilities of those that enter the country’s work force. After conducting research, I found that different conferences are held in the Middle East in order to discuss education and career development.

The 5th Gulf Education Conference Abu Dhabi UAE was held last month on March 18th-19th, 2015. The purpose of the event is to provide an atmosphere where people can discuss developments in education and innovations taking place in the world of academia. Also, the conference provides a place where people from across the globe can form partnerships and exchange best practices. The region benefits from these conferences because it gains an opportunity to observe how education is being approached by different institutions across the globe and can adjust its educational methods accordingly. The themes for this year’s conference were vocational education and employer engagement with educational institutions. As a result, much attention was given to workforce development and forming ways to strengthen the region’s talent. One of the highlights of the event is the Gala Awards Dinner which is a networking dinner where awards are given to organizations and institutions that have exhibited exceptional advances in teaching programs, resources, facilities, and academic positioning. Examples of awards include The Most Outstanding Entrepreneurial Project and The Most Effective Scheme in Motivating Academic Staff to Engage with the Employability Agenda. Below is a video sharing the thoughts of different attendees of the Gulf Education Conference that took place in 2012.

Due to the large amount of executives, scholars, and sponsors I can only imagine how much methodology and knowledge is present at the Gulf Education Conference. I thought it was interesting that the themes of this year’s conference focused on the connection between education and the work force. I decided to search for other,upcoming events similar to the Gulf Education Conference and I discovered an event called the Middle East Career Development Conference.

The 3rd Middle East Career Development Conference (MECDC) will be held on April 30th, 2015 at the Canadian University Dubai. During the MECDC, more than 100 career guidance professionals, counsellors, HR leaders and coaches will gather to discuss critical issues concerning education and career development in the Middle East as a whole. Dubai has already offered one topic for discussion seeing as their research shows that only 60% of students across the Dubai region feel prepared for the workplace, and over half of the students would not choose the same subject to study again. These findings are interesting due to the fact that I’ve heard many Georgia Tech students, including myself, testify to the fact that internships and co-ops teach you things that you don’t learn in a classroom. Also many Georgia Tech students change majors or choose a different subject to study if they decide to pursue a second degree.

Officials that will attend the MECDC include representatives from Etihad Airways, Tandeeth, Du and Boyden, The Higher Education Council in Bahrain, European Institute for Business Administration (INSEAD), King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) in Saudi Arabia, the Dubai Knowledge Village, and the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research. Rema Menon, Founder and Director of Counseling Point Training and Development states, “With 42% of U.A.E’s youth in the 15-34 years age group, career counseling is of vital importance.” Dr. Ayoub Kazim, the Managing Director of Dubai Knowledge Village comments, “Ensuring that our workforce has the relevant skills to drive our country’s GDP growth is vital.” Although each person attending the conference has different priorities, the end goal of enhancing the youth and labor market of the region is shared by all.

Picture of an information session being held at the MECDC in 2012.

Picture of an information session being held at the MECDC in 2012.

Picture of an engaged audience at the MECDC in 2013.

Picture of an engaged audience at the MECDC in 2013.

The MECDC even has a website for the 3rd conference that contains helpful information for students seeking to develop their careers. Upon visiting the website, I found a link that led to a list of articles, and the first article title was “Career Development Myths of College Students.” Me, being a college student, decided to click on the link. The article listed 15 Myths, but my all-time favorites were “Good grades and a college degree will get me a good job,” “My family and friends make great career counselors,” and “I posted my resume to the Internet, so I should hear about a job offer soon.” Seeing as we’ve all searched for jobs before we all know the amount of truth held in each of these statements. While exploring the website, I also found a few career development videos. One video in particular was a Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) talk by Larry Smith. The video is called “Why You Will Fail to Have a Great Career.” Misleading title, I know, but it was an interesting watch.

What do events such as the Gulf Education Conference and the MECDC say about the Modern Middle East? We’ve learned that in the past, education in the Middle East was mostly focused around religion and the Quran. Over time, however, the Middle East began to experience internal changes. Some wanted to remain faithful to the traditional ways of teaching while other wanted to establish more modern educational institutions by observing the educational methods used by other countries which helped to fuel westernization. Now, centuries later, it can be seen how much the Middle East has progressed in its methods of acquiring academic knowledge and attempting to apply it to the educational structure of the region as well as the work force. Whether the Middle East’s endeavors to improve upon its education and labor force is proving to be effective is open for debate.

-Vontravis Monts


Homepage of The 5th Gulf Education Conference

Summary of MECDC

MECDC 2 Homepage

MECDC 3 Homepage



  1. amiteichenbaum says:

    Are these conferences limited to the UAE? It would be interesting to see how work force preparation is treated in say Saudi Arabia for instance, where higher education is gender segregated. There are now more women in college in SA but there’s no corresponding increase in women in the work force ( There have been proposals of women-only cities for work (

  2. ashumway3 says:

    I think it is really good that there are conferences like these to discuss the need for different types of education needed in their region. In order for an economy to be sustainable, you need a wide range of professions: from manual workers to trained technicians to the highly educated PhD holders. This will be interesting to watch over the coming years because the UAE has the second richest economy in the region and some pretty significant technological advancements (such as the tallest man made structure in the world). Also, thank you for the interesting TED talk!

  3. coreilly says:

    I think it is good that the Middle East is trying to further it’s education programs. The key to any growing region is better education. With more educated citizens, the country or area will continue to grow and become prosperous. I can see why some families would want to keep with traditional teachings involving religion, however if the region’s economy wants to improve, it needs to consider sifting towards modern educational methods. So I think in terms of the future of the region and the economy of the region, the work that is being put into this ‘education reform’ will be worth it in the long run for the Middle East.

    • mdsmith910 says:

      I agree completely, and if they shift towards modern education, who’s to say that they can’t still have separate religion classes through a different system

  4. jackjenkins2015 says:

    This is pretty cool to see! I always appreciate seeing countries (including our own) take educating their people seriously. I think it does some pretty great things for the country’s economy, well being and general happiness (not that these claims are all quantifiable). I especially like the “myths” article you posted, and it’s definitely applicable to us as college students too. Pretty cool to see that their life isn’t so different after all. It also seems to me by some of the pictures that their are several women there, which is cool. I don’t know exactly how equally accessible education is for women in some Middle Eastern countries but I hope that events like this help them see the value of all members in society. Thanks for sharing!

  5. austinsoper says:

    We need something like this in the United States. Especially in the wake of the APS cheating scandal and all the problems that we’re having with education. It drives me crazy that the United States lags behind the rest of the world in education. Education is the key to the future, and every other country except ours seems to have figured that out.

  6. lalaninatl says:

    Awesome to see this kind of stuff happening. I definitely agree with your points about internships and helping you gain experience. From what my dad said when he visited Dubai, they base everything of other schools and will call the good schools “american schools.”

  7. trevormcelhenny says:

    Very refreshing post about education in the Middle East! What hits home for me is that “over half of the students would not choose the same subject to study again”. As I am finishing up my 2nd undergrad degree in chemistry, after working as a chemical engineering for several years got too boring, I wish that more counseling options would have been available to help me choose the career path that most suits my interests and strengths. Interesting to see considerations such as these taken into account in Middle Eastern nations. Thanks for a very insightful post!

  8. kimpgt says:

    Great point about human resource being pivotal to Middle Eastern economy, and not just oil. It is great that they have educational reforms and advancements because that is how countries grow and become world powers. Some places do not strong emphasis on education, however, it’s important to have an educated public for many reasons. I am glad that the conferences have multiple countries and are accepting to different approaches. I feel that those attitudes can be extended towards politics between different Middle Eastern countries and foster better relations and reduce warfare and discrimination. It is difficult to determine where state and religion separate, especially when it is the basis of educating today’s youth. I think that there should be wide varieties of schools (religious, secular, mixture), where students are free to choose their enrollment.

  9. vlobo3 says:

    I haven’t really heard much about education in the Middle East, so this was interesting. I’m really glad that many regions of the Middle East are promoting education. I think that is important for the population to have some kind of education available to them so that the general population will have an ability to make educated decisions, or in general have the ability to think for themselves. As we know from many instances in the history of Islam, there has been this tradition of the educated teaching and interpreting religion, politics, etc. to those who do not understand it. So, it was easy for more educated individuals to manipulate others who were not as learned. Providing an education for more people could hopefully help to curb some corruption caused by higher powers.

  10. khospedales3 says:

    It’s cool to see this push to strengthen education and career development from these Middle Eastern nations themselves rather than from the Western imperialism throughout the 20th century that we’ve studied. Building these systems on their own out of a desire to increase human capital will certainly make them most successful.

  11. cryan3232 says:

    Glad to read a post that is so different from the others. Human capital is not something that I thought of when referring to the Middle East but as long as they are attempting to make strides in the education I can only imagine they will see positive change. As many people mentioned in the earlier comments I too think that creating some network to provide students with internship possibilities is the best way they could ensure that they are providing a good education.

  12. jkempa3 says:

    Good post. Education is the only way for the Middles East or any country or region to develop and become a part of the world stage. Education in the Middle East is also the most promising way, in my opinion, to put an end to the radical groups. It is ironic that many of these radical factions are founded and run by educated persons, but then really how educated are these people? Educated civilizations across the globe seem to unanimously agree that is is wrong to kill others simply because they do not agree with you on religion. I hope education in the Middle East continues to evolve and develop and hopefully, that will lead to a more peaceful existence for everyone.

  13. jyount6 says:

    I think that education in the Middle East is a huge step forward in the movement for a more stable region. One that can be self sustaining while having a population that can really have flexibility and understanding in this modern global economy. The obvious issue is that we have seen this before: education, primarily in Western courses, has led to some discontent in the Middle East before. People that disagree with the Western methods of teaching are a force to be reckoned with as history has shown us. Radicals may not have to look far for “Western” targets in the future where attacks on, say, American lifestyles would be the source of a terrorist victory. I think it would be best to see this grow quickly and reach rural areas in the Middle East as well, or at least the opportunity of some education.

  14. cfundora says:

    Thank you for writing this piece. Often, I think the West forgets about the contributions the Middle East has made to education, specifically the medical, math, and science fields. Its refreshing to learn about the career development conferences and the commitment leaders feel to counsel their young citizens. While promoting higher education and career success is all well and good, I think that their efforts should be inclusive to all members of their community.

  15. emartin36 says:

    The Middle East is certainly in need of moves like this to improve education policy region-wide. I know that Iran has been experiencing a significant “Brain Drain” as many of their educated citizens end up leaving the country for work abroad. The Middle East was once the source of some of the world’s most important educational and mathematical advancements, and it would be nice to get the region back to an influential level again.

  16. ssweeny3 says:

    This is again a different viewpoint on how Middle Eastern countries are striving to continue to advance themselves in the world today. I agree with everything you said, that a great way to cause the GDP to grow is through education. We have seen this many many times before. Why have China and Japan had their GDP’s growing through the past couple year? Their insane education programs is definitely one of the reasons. I think that increasing the level of education in the Middle East is a great way to both increase the GDP and increase the stability of some of these countries.

  17. nsumi3 says:

    “Ensuring that our workforce has the relevant skills to drive our country’s GDP growth is vital.”

    Such a salient point and such a neglected one here at home. The coming decades will either be one of growth or one of decay for the Middle East, and I sincerely hope that our own ignorance and arrogance will not prevent them from pursuing important reforms to education and other public services.

  18. mlucchi says:

    Education is also part of the path toward stability. Once people start obtaining skilled and paying jobs, the economy grows and poverty shrinks. This is definitely a step in the right direction. The developed, industrialized countries in the world all have advanced, nonsectarian education systems and its good that other countries want to follow this model.

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