RETURNING to Orange on a sojourn from the Gulf States where she now lives and works, Dr Natasha Ridge is keen to talk about her recently published book Education and Reverse Gender Divide in the Gulf States.
Dr Ridge arrived in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2001 as a teacher.
She says it wasn’t long into her career in that part of the world she recognised boys who were educated separately from their female counterparts were underperforming compared to the girls.
Today Dr Ridge says her research and subsequent book, although produced on subject matter gathered in the UAE, is relevant to anyone anywhere in the world who teaches teenage boys.
She said as is the case in Australia, boys in the UAE are lacking male role models in teaching which can often lead to them becoming disengaged with the learning process in high school years.
“Ninety per cent of the teachers in the UAE are female and it is very similar here,” she said.
Dr Ridge says she believes boys are often not given sufficient support to stay in the education system.
“So they just drop out,” she said.
“Very often they are lured by jobs in the mines or in apprenticeships which they often don’t stick at.”
Dr Ridge said there is a perception that young women in the UAE do not have adequate access to education and as a result can be subject to repression by males.
“But all the evidence shows the girls are getting good access to education and do very well,” she explained.
Dr Ridge says the recent heightened security threats relating to young Muslim men being drawn to extremist groups is an example of the importance of keeping young males engaged in education.
“I feel as though there have been missed opportunities for them,” she said.
Dr Ridge’s book, published by Columbia University’s Teachers College Press, is available on amazon.com.