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Call for counselling to ease path from school to university

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Academics are calling for coun selling in schools to help pupil s to make the tran sition to university. Nabil lbrahim, the chan cellor of Abu Dhabi University, said his institution was in discussions with about 10 schools in the capital, private and public, to pilot a system o f working with pupil s in Grade 9 or 10. He said early intervention and career guidance would address many issues that ham per univer sities, including high dropout rates and the need for found ation courses.

"It may take a yea r or so to implement, but from my experi ence in the US it's the most effective process in terms of student retention," Mr Ibrahim said. The syste m ens ures that around 90 per cent of students complete their studies, he said. "In grade 10 yo u stan recruiting students, and by II and 12 you get them to really prepare themselves for a career and for college life, to be indep endent, to make decisions, manage time," Mr Ibrah im said. "There's a lot of hand-holding in high school that you don't have in college." At Zayed University alone, around 18 per cent of students drop out in the first year, unable to meet the dem ands of university life or tempted by careers in the army or police. At other co lleges the number of students who do not comp lete their studies is believed to be up to 50 per cent . Only about 10 per cent of students are able to begin their undergraduate studies at the Higher Co lleges of Technology immed iately after leaving school. The rest create a burden on the university, which must bring them up to standard with a remedial educatio n foundation programme of at least a year.

The number of students qual ifying for direct entry to Zayed University increased this yea r from 16 per cent to 30 per cent, but a large number must still go throu gh the acade mic bridge programm e, especially in English, the language of tuition. The Minister of Higher Education and Scient ific Research, Sheikh Nahya n bin Mubara k A l Nahya n, calls these remedial programmes an "issue that has plagued our educati onal system for decade s". Rory Hume , the provost at UAE University, said qualified caree r counsellors would help to eliminate the need for such programmes. "Universities need to play a role as well, by communica ting clearly with coun sellors to let them, and therefore the students they advise, know what our admissions requirements are for differen t universities and different programmes," he said. Mr Hume said that at least one career co unsellor in every high school would also encourage more boys to go on to higher education, rather than taking the apparently eas ier and more lucrati ve option of a career in the army or police. Tom Alibrandi , direc tor of the academic bridge programme at the American University o f Sharj ah, says the issue of counselling "strikes at the heart of uni versity retention problem s". He said; "That lack of understandin g of what it takes to be a student, along with inadequ ate preparation in English, are two of the major issues students face when they come to AU S, and we get top students whose average GPA is over 92 per cent." 20 I0- 10-25