27 October, 2009

One reason that too many Arabs are poor is rotten education...

I'm wondering just how our native Emiratis feel about this one ... especially the highlighted section!

One reason that too many Arabs are poor is rotten education
October 26, 2009

Laggards trying to catch up

A recent issue of Science, the weekly journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, was devoted to research into “Ardi” or Ardipithecus ramidus, a 4.4m-year-old hominid species whose discovery deepens the understanding of human evolution. These latest studies suggest, among other things, that rather than descending from a closely related species such as the chimpanzee, the hominid branch parted earlier than previously thought from the common ancestral tree.

In much of the Arab world, coverage of the research took a different spin. “American Scientists Debunk Darwin”, exclaimed the headline in al-Masry al-Youm, Egypt’s leading independent daily. “Ardi Refutes Darwin’s Theory”, chimed the website of al-Jazeera, the region’s most-watched television channel. Scores of comments from readers celebrated this news as a blow to Western materialism and a triumph for Islam. Two or three lonely readers wrote in to complain that the report had inaccurately presented the findings of the research.

The response to Ardi’s unearthing was not surprising. According to surveys, barely a third of Egyptian adults have ever heard of Charles Darwin and just 8% think there is any evidence to back his famous theory. Teachers, who might be expected to know better, seem equally sceptical. In a survey of nine Egyptian state schools, where Darwin’s ideas do form part of the curriculum for 15-year-olds, not one of more than 30 science teachers interviewed believed them to be true. At a private university in the United Arab Emirates, only 15% of the faculty thought there was good evidence to support evolution.

The strength of religious belief among Arabs partly explains their reluctance to accept the facts of evolution. Until recent reforms, state primary schools in Saudi Arabia devoted 31% of classroom time to religion, compared with just 20% for mathematics and science. A quarter of the kingdom’s university students devote the main part of their degree course to Islamic studies, more than in engineering, medicine and science put together. And despite changes to Saudi curriculums, religious study remains obligatory every year from primary school through to university.

Such choices carry a cost that goes beyond ignorance of Darwin. Arab countries now spend as much or more on education, as a share of GDP, than the world average. They have made great strides in eradicating illiteracy, boosting university enrolment and reducing gaps in education between the sexes.

But the gap in the quality of education between Arabs and other people at a similar level of development is still frightening. It is one reason why Arab countries suffer unusually high rates of youth unemployment. According to a recent study by a team of Egyptian economists, the lack of skills in the workforce largely explains why a decade of fast economic growth has failed to lift more people out of poverty.

The most rigorous comparative study of education systems, a survey called Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) that comes out every four years, revealed in its latest report, in 2007, that out of 48 countries tested, all 12 participating Arab countries fell below the average. More disturbingly, less than 1% of students aged 12-13 in ten Arab countries reached an advanced benchmark in science, compared with 32% in Singapore and 10% in the United States. Only one Arab country, Jordan, scored above the international average, with 5% of its 13-year-olds reaching the advanced category.

Other comparative measures are equally alarming. A listing of the world’s top 500 universities, compiled annually by Shanghai Jiao Tong University, includes three South African and six Israeli universities, but not a single Arab one. The Swiss-based World Economic Forum ranks Egypt a modest 70th out of 133 countries in competitiveness, but in terms of the quality of its primary education system and its mathematics-and-science teaching, it slumps to 124th. Libya, despite an income of $16,000 a head, ranks an even more dismal 128th in the quality of its higher education, lower than dirt-poor Burkina Faso, with an average income of $577.

Well aware that their school systems are doing badly, Arab governments have been scrambling to improve. In an attempt to leapfrog the slow process of curriculum reform and teacher training, many have taken the easy route of encouraging private schools. In Qatar, for instance, the share of students in private education leapt from 30% to more than 60% between 1999 and 2006, according to the UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). Syria has licensed some 20 private universities since 2001; 14 are up and running. Yet their total enrolment is dwarfed by the 200,000 at state-run Damascus University alone. Oil-rich monarchies in the Gulf have spent lavishly to lure Western academies to their shores, but these branch universities are struggling to find qualified students to fill their splendidly equipped classrooms.

Not to be outdone, Saudi Arabia has launched King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), a city-sized institution with an endowment of $20 billion. Intended as an oasis of academic excellence, it enjoys an independent board and is the kingdom’s only co-educational institution. This augurs well for the Saudi elite, but one fancy new university will do little to lift the overall standard of Saudi education. And it has been attacked by religious conservatives. A senior cleric who decried the mixing of sexes at KAUST, declaring that its textbooks should be reviewed by religious scholars, was forced to resign from government office.

Source: The Economist Print Edition
Web: http://mahmood.tv/2009/10/26/one-reason-that-too-many-arabs-are-poor-is-rotten-education/


Anonymous said...

All the world's problems, especialy those of the Middle East will be solved once we erradicate religion from the world.

The masses are illiterate sheep following the decree's of psychotic men....how sad it is to see the world in such a way.....

Anonymous said...

I'm going to get flamed for that but here we go.

Science require critical thinking; It requires that you learn to methodically prove or refute theories based observation, hard evidence and repeatable experiments.

Religion on the other hand requires the opposite; accepting "truth" without tangible proof. It's called faith.

Unfortunately a by the book (literally) religious teaching does not help one bit in forming a scientific mind. It might be ok to train lab assistants who've learned to perform procedure "by heart" but not researchers.

Funny enough the first or at least most famous theologian who said that religion should not be interpreted literally if it obviously contradicts the observation of Nature was an Arab of the 5th century. Augustine.

now go. flame me. :)

Al-ain Rose said...

nitwit...as usual..

why don't you just post this, english bullshiter:



look it up...

Media Junkie said...

well that point of view is debatable.

darwinism vs creationism is not the only way of assessing how great a nation can be in quality education.

on the other hand, censoring or morally editing textbooks and curriculum doesn't help. ignoring that there are other theories, religions and religious ideas, etc doesn't help. Or learning only one side of the Israel/Palestine conflict (Pro-Palestinian or Pro-Israeli).

the only way a person can make their mind up and be able to be stronger in their stance is by knowing the other side of the story.

Dubai Jazz said...

I'd love to hear an academic point of view on this issue. It's obvious that Gulf States, especially the UAE are very serious about education. They'd put in great efforts and huge sums of money on campuses and qualified academics. It's time to see this pay off, isn't it?

And I totally agree with MJ; morally editing a scientific text to suits one's faith isn't helpful. Nothing should be beyond the realms of doubt and scientific inquiry.

Anonymous said...

Irrespective of the price but what could be the value of education in a society where freedom (of thought) is restricted by the state?

Al-ain Rose,

You don't take constructive criticism lightly, do you? And this blog is not the place for anyone to launch personal/name calling attacks against anyone. I suggest you find an alternative mode or platform to settle your (personal) scores with the English Teacher.

Brn said...


In general you don't want to post an entire article here. Just a short excerpt of the key parts and a link is fine.

Al-Ain Rose:

Simply posting bi-lingual insults is hardly an intelligent contribution to the conversation. You can do better.

Anonymous said...

"Oil-rich monarchies in the Gulf have spent lavishly to lure Western academies to their shores, but these branch universities are struggling to find qualified students to fill their splendidly equipped classrooms."
Show me a well qualified University here first. The so called "-X country University" are not even recognized in the so calledX country it self.
I am suprised how this article generalizes information, so biased, so un researched.

Al-ain Rose said...

constructive criticism?
& intelligent contribution? in a topic posted by such pea brain? for Allah's sake, are you serious? you all know well why he continues posting such topics, all what he's aiming for is PROVOKING, no more, no less, and you know this. He never engages himself in an "intillegent" or "constructive" conversation as you claim, he only talks shit and bitches randomly as if he came from utopia, why is he so childish & trashy like this? but I can see where he comes from.

Paraglider said...

Darwin's was a major contribution, but modern evolution theory has moved on, just as Einsteinian mechanics replaced Newtonian. What has not moved on is some religionists' (fundie Christian as well as Muslim) perception of Darwin as the great bogie-man. Darwin knew nothing of microbiology or biochemistry. The role of viruses in mutation and trans-species 'adaptation', for example, was simply unknown to him. The shame is that scientifically ignorant journalists still insist on promoting 'Darwinism versus Creationism' as if any educated person was still remotely concerned.

Anonymous said...

I am an Emarati student here.
The schools here do not meet my standards at all.
I am home schooled.
I do not waste my time by the futile attempts at brainwashing by the mandatory Islamic Studies and Arabic "Language" lessons that I would have to endure had I stayed in "regular school".


I am very happy with my choice.

Anonymous said...

Al-ain Rose:

Which part of -- And this blog is not the place for anyone to launch personal/name calling attacks against anyone. I suggest you find an alternative mode or platform to settle your (personal) scores with the English Teacher -- do you not understand?

If I see right, this article was not (originally) written by the English Teacher but rather cross-posted.

Moreover, if you have any objection(s), counter it in an intelligent manner while maintaining civility & (blog) decorum.

An historic observation of your comment postings here shows you have a problem against the whole community, which I hate to expand as sounding filtered-racism.

Now I understand that you are an educated woman. And I recommend you start acting like one instead of portraying yourself as someone that is one drink away from taking out an entire city -- the finger on the trigger type.

Please think about it!

Anonymous said...

There is absolutely no mystery about this state of affairs. Religious ideology discourages logical thinking. People who are fervently religious see the world in very narrow, circumscribed terms. Religious dogma dictates how life, in the widest possible sense, should be viewed. The result is intellectual chaos.

However, Islamic societies are not the only culprits here. Read the history of the Inquisition if you want to see the macabre results of excessive religiosity. The most bizarre gibberish was believed, and nightmarish cruelty was justified in the name of some "god".

In fact, for the first half of the article, you could substitute US for KSA. The religious wackos are trying to take control there and are fighting all teaching of true science. (what with the earth being only 3000 years old and all).

But what a stretch to try to turn this fascinating discovery into something that disproves evolution when it supports it. Pathetic really... As long as religion controls education, ignorance will reign.

:: Fizza Mehdi :: said...

Goto knowledge village. You'll find lavish halls, sparkling tiles, beautiful fountains, lush fields, pretty buildings, starbucks, a glamorous beauty salon, a gift shop, a flashy food court with international cuisine and fast food, Starbucks and Krispy Kreme, rent a car, pharmacy, Emirates Driving School office, a 24/7 supermarket that sells groceries - even flavored condoms.

There's no bookshop in Knowledge Village, not even a library. Yes there are libraries in colleges within Knowledge Village but they're small, and 80% of their books are compulsory for courses.

I don't like the Darwin part of this article. I don't think it's so important in determining educational level. Or maybe I do not realize how important it's considered in Scientific theories.

But I agree with many, many parts of this article.

Paraglider said...

@anonymous12:18 - yes, on all points.

@Fizza Mehdi - Knowledge Village, like Media City, Internet City, Studio City, is a real estate project loosely based on a theme. And if the rents they charge are as high as Media City rents, I doubt very much if any book shop could survive there. Pity, but that's how it is :(

BuJ said...

Again, negative and attention-seeking.

Anonymous said...

As a UAE National I must admitt that our Gov. School systems were very late to require English & much of our Education was limited to the agenda of patriatism and not the agenda of qualifying us for a seat at University!
We Emiratis are pretty much used to getting our positions via WASTA!!
I understand this very well, I have several cousins who were set up quite well because his dad knew someone or so & so was told to put a 22 year old as a Director! Come on Guys you can not deny it!
The time is now that we have to learn to work hard and accomplish everything from our own efforts!
When I graduated I was offered many posistions that in no way was I qualified, however, those offering me were trying to impress my father!
I went to the States and worked very hard on my Masters & I am very happy I did this! I am a better person for it and I am so glad I did not just jump on the easy train!

Lirun said...

i dont think a single nation is happy about its education system these days

Anonymous said...

Education is a way of life not only is it schools.

John said...

@ Dubai Jazz

You asked for it :-).

The tertiary education in the Gulf States is a serious joke and all these foreign universities are set up first of all as PR gigs and to satisfy the needs of foreigners.
Just remember that promoting critical thought would be counterproductive to authoritarian rule, so why should they? In return those foreign universities sacrificed their ideals to advance the dubious interests of Western foreign policy and the economic interests of their endowments.

When it comes to local quality, even the majority of those Emiratis that have attended universities abroad and obtained a PhD can hardly produce an abstract in English, certainly not capable of scholarly interaction in respect to complex research questions with their foreign counterparts. Try to find publications by Emiratis in high ranking international journals – almost nothing! The fault is certainly with the West that allows this practice in the first place (tutoring system, ghost writers, special rules, etc.) and it certainly does not add to the development of the country. (real development means self-reliance, not bought artificial development!)
Despite these difficulties, those that studied abroad (that could also mean Beirut for instance) still have a much more solid education (even if they make no use of it in the UAE and prefer foreigners to do the work), because at least they had a glimpse of the real world.

A good example would be Saudi Arabia. The emphasis on higher education concentrated initially on education overseas (with the intention to subsequently develop indigenous universities and staff them with nationals, which they did).

In the 70s and 80s more than 30000 Saudis studied alone in the US each year and that produced a highly enabled segment of society, familiar with Western life, values and ways. It is not only possible for the rest of the world to interact with them in a respectful dialogue, but it also brought forward leaders in business and even politics.
(You may be surprised that they can fix some of there own problems, without hiring foreigners!) Trust me that it is just so much more delightful to deal with a minister that speaks better English than me, is punctual and does not share the dumb arrogance that we usually encounter in the Emirates (all a question of education and etiquette) and you can even engage in a critical discussion. Even better they spare you from megalomaniac wise visions and such stupid statements as “the world is jealous of us”, instead they realize that they got a long road ahead and change of attitudes is part of the deal.

Lirun said...

yeah but in todays age where curiosity and exploration have been replaced with selection and gatekeeping due to new communication technologies - the way of life has become less dependent on the inquirer and more on the content format and substance..

teaching today is no longer about the material and more about the navigation tools and the desire and skill with which one learns to apply them..

good teachers are very very important no matter what the culture is like.. the politics need to support the drive..

Dubai City Information said...

who said they are poor? not the local citizens. getting free money is NOT poor. what is sad is mismanagement of funds, where i can see education coming into play

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