Arab education lacks vision

Friday 23/10/2015
Inadequacies. Iraqi students attend their graduation ceremony at Technical University of Baghdad.

While Germany and its 16 federal states spend up to 32% of their total expendi­tures on education, in addition to aid coming from scientific associations and research compa­nies, Arab countries spend only 2% of their gross domestic product, and sometimes less, on education.
The problem of education in the Arab world is related to a way of thinking. It is not new but deeply rooted in Arab societies. Thus, it is hard to be easily resolved because of the lack of understanding and means to do that.
It is the source of illiteracy. Illiteracy is of different types but the most arduous is academic illiteracy found in great numbers of Arab graduates. A weak state creates a weak education system and vice versa.
A state of institutions confines this problem to one institution but what is visible is the contrary. Scientific institutions are sick be­cause the decisions are ailing. And other administrative institutions of the state contract the sickness to ultimately paralyse the state from within.
Attempts by some states to transfer branches of foreign uni­versities may help build a strong national one. The German model has achieved great successes in this field. One must admit that the crises differ from one country to another but we can safely assert that it is the crises of identity and thinking, not financial. It is true that money plays a crucial role but the loss of vision and future outlook put these states in the vi­cious circle.
Arab universities also live in that circle. When you look at the performance of Arab universities in the annual global assessment of international educational institu­tions, you don’t find a reference for them there.
When you visit an Arab univer­sity, you will know why. There, scientific research, which is one of the pillars of education, is non­existent. Arab universities often have no budgets for research. And, if they do, they lack the professional cadre and the student researchers.
Arab universities also lack librar­ies. If some have them, then the number of books is much fewer than that of the readers. To some, a book is something strange, while to others, it’s just extra lug­gage. Arabs read the least in the world. Workshops, museums and exhibitions have little to do with education because they are not connected with universities.
Therefore, the problems of education are not only limited to governments but include soci­ety. It starts at home, where the mother has a significant role to play in her children’s education. If the mother is educated, then the children are. If not, the children are often, unfortunately, illiterate.
The number of children who flee classes is increasing. The awareness of the family reflects on the society. A child will eventually return home from school and car­ry with him what he was taught. At home, it’s the upbringing that kicks in and complements the education a child had in school.
In the Arab world, education lacks vision. It’s an outdated system. It’s a total failure. Its institutions are underdeveloped. They lack specialised administra­tors and there is no supervision, especially on the teaching cadre. The good cadre is either small or has left the country for a better opportunity abroad.
Additionally, the curriculum is theoretical and lacks practicality. It is basically politicised. Then, we must not forget that the primitive curricula are completely detached from the needs of the labour market.
All these problems shed an ugly light on the crises and show that we’re far distant from building the human personality in the Arab world.

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