Irish Minister highlights education links

ABU DHABI, 17th March, 2018 (WAM) – As many as thirty percent of the Irish expatriate community in the Emirates are teachers, while Irish educational institutions have emerged as a popular choice for UAE citizens pursuing medicine and healthcare as a career, according to figures provided by the country’s Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor.

In an interview with the Emirates News Agency, WAM, Mitchell O’Connor commented that her Government “has really invested in education, primary, secondary and higher education.

Following the severe economic depression that began in 2008, continuing for several years, the Irish Government “realised the importance of investing in education and of attracting foreign direct investment, FDI,” the Minister said.

One part of that, she noted, has been investment in the country’s teacher training colleges, which she described as being “of really high calibre.” Mitchell O’Connor, herself a former school principal before her election to the Irish Parliament in 2011, adding that qualifying as a teacher now requires four, rather than three, years of study, ensuring that they have a postgraduate qualification as well as an undergraduate degree. The training, she said, not only includes academic subjects, but also topics such as classroom management and performance in the classroom.

There is now scope, she suggested, for Ireland’s Department of Education to collaborate with the UAE on teacher training and a visit by a UAE delegation to Ireland is being planned.

There are an estimated 10,000 Irish citizens living in the Emirates, the largest Irish expatriate community in the Middle East, the Minister said. Of these, around 3,000 are teachers, she added. Since the Irish language, as well as English, is compulsory in Irish schools, this means that nearly all teachers have the skills to teach in a second language. This, the Minister suggested, is something of particular importance in UAE schools, where most students only have English as a second language.

“We’re really proud of our Irish teachers,” she said.

At the same time, Ireland’s own higher educational institutions have succeeded in attracting Emirati students. The Minister singled out, in particular, the Royal College of Surgeons – Ireland, RCSI, the alma mater of many Emirati doctors. Since 2006, Mitchell O’Connor said, the RCSI, through its Dublin base and its Dubai campus, has graduated a total of 540 Emirati students.

The Dubai campus, established in 2005 and located in the Mohammed bin Rashid Academic Medical Centre, now offers MSc programmes in Healthcare Management and Quality and Safety in Healthcare Management. 90 graduates received their MSc degrees in December last year.

A team from University College Dublin, the country’s largest university and also one of Europe’s top research-intensive universities, is now examining the possibility of extending its operations to the UAE, Mitchell O’Connor added.

The Minister also highlighted strong global rankings in the quality of scientific research being undertaken at Irish higher education institutions. These are in the top one per cent worldwide in some nineteen specific areas – including second in the world for nanotechnology, second for immunology and second for dairy and wider food sciences. Identifying what she described as many untapped opportunities for research collaboration between higher education institutions in the UAE and Ireland, Mitchell O’Connor said that she believed both countries are keen to seize these opportunities.

Education, along with Innovation and Research and Development, will be a key focus of Ireland’s participation in EXPO 2020 Dubai, the Minister said.


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