Incongruencies and Detrimental Effects of Neoliberal Education Reform in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)




educational policy, educational reforms, institutionalism, neoliberalism, United Arab Emirates, UAE


Charged with postcolonial educational planning and development activities over the last 50-70 years, the context and content of educational planning and policymaking have evolved considerably in most Arab countries. The methodologies of planning and policymaking have also changed to match changing milieus and national priorities. Despite some accomplishments, many have amassed a record of educational policy and reform undertakings that have been less successful. Moreover, many Arab countries have been shown to continually lag behind other regions with similar levels of development, such as Latin America and South Asia. However, a few regional countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), have taken a leading role in educational change initiatives in the implementation of globalized neoliberal reforms. More precisely, they have promoted bilingual (English/Arabic) and imported curricula, the modernization of school systems, privatization, standardization, accountability, school choice, and assessment reform. This study examined the implementation of recent UAE neoliberal reforms utilizing a framework derived from postmodern (neo)institutional analysis. This study argues that many policy undertakings have included contradictions and harmful impacts impeding the achievement of intended goals. Furthermore, educational policymaking has been caught between global and centralized national prescriptions for education and its role in society and unique contextual demands, which have created administrative challenges, dissatisfaction, and public resentment.

Author Biographies

David Litz, University of British Columbia

Dr. David Litz is presently working as an Assistant Professor in the School of Education at the University of Northern British Columbia, where he teaches several courses in the Bachelor of Education and Master of Education (Leadership) programs. He was previously an Assistant Professor and Division Head of the Assessment and School Evaluation Division at Emirates College for Advanced Education (ECAE). He has also previously taught in South Korea and Ontario, Canada. He holds an EdD from the University of Calgary and has several publications; his research interests include comparative education, educational administration and leadership, social justice, as well as educational policy. 

Rida Blaik

Dr. Rida Blaik earned her Ph.D. in Policy and Management from The University of Melbourne. Dr. Blaik has worked at many higher education institutions in the Middle East and Australia. She has extensive experience in school and higher education praxis and development. In addition to her administrative positions, she lectures courses within the realm of education leadership, school management, school evaluation, curriculum and instruction, peace studies, school reforms, capacity building, cultural studies, and sociology of education. Dr. Blaik has numerous publications; her research focuses on policy and leadership, school reforms and innovation, sociology of education, and social justice.




How to Cite

Litz, D., & Blaik, R. (2023). Incongruencies and Detrimental Effects of Neoliberal Education Reform in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). International Journal for Leadership in Learning, 23(1), 236–259.