The Arab Education-Quake
A Holistic Creative Strategy to Transcend Gaps and Take Quantum Development Leaps
Bayan Shadaideh...
The Arab Education-Quake
A Holistic Creative Strategy to Transcend Gaps and Take Quantum Development Leaps
The status of e...
and job opportunities (placing education at the service of production and the expansion of choices).” 4
of which I will be...
“The results of a 2003 study Arab countries also ranked at the bottom (coming in at between thirty
eighth and fifty-first ...
to first and foremost recognize the status of the Arab world, which is the number one step to move
forward.
A lot of effor...
Private Partnerships, NGOs, Artists, Philanthropists, etc.), transcends time and boundaries, an
ignites the passion of com...
maintaining a sense of direction in the current context of restless change…..Creativity is a fundamental
dimension of huma...
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The Arab Education-Quake

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The status of education in the Arab world is currently echoing an alarming siren. Though there have been several notable achievements and many reforms in public policy, they mainly fall under the “engineering” of education and fail to develop the educational tool for freedom and development. For the Arab world to be able to catch up with the knowledge revolution and succeed in creating a strong knowledge society, it needs to develop a holistic creative multi-player solution to transcend the eminent gaps and take quantum development leaps.
In this paper I will depict the educational scene in the Arab world, highlighting the most dangerous current challenges, spot the light on the achievements that have taken place so far, and accordingly propose an effective solution that integrates all related pillars and the missing links considering the successful model of the European Union’s Creativity and Innovation strategy.

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  • The proposed Arab Knowledge Bank is an innovation to make knowledge accessible to the entire Arab World, crossing the barrier of illiteracy and even de-linking Education and Knowledge. Details are given in www.slideshre.net/drrajumathew
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  • ' The status of education in the Arab world is currently echoing an alarming siren. Though there have been several notable achievements and many reforms in public policy, they mainly fall under the “engineering” of education and fail to develop the educational tool for freedom and development.

    For the Arab world to be able to catch up with the knowledge revolution and succeed in creating a strong knowledge society, it needs to develop a holistic creative multi-player solution to transcend the eminent gaps and take quantum development leaps.'
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The Arab Education-Quake

  1. 1. The Arab Education-Quake A Holistic Creative Strategy to Transcend Gaps and Take Quantum Development Leaps Bayan Shadaideh The status of education in the Arab world is currently echoing an alarming siren. Though there have been several notable achievements and many reforms in public policy, they mainly fall under the “engineering” of education and fail to develop the educational tool for freedom and development. For the Arab world to be able to catch up with the knowledge revolution and succeed in creating a strong knowledge society, it needs to develop a holistic creative multi-player solution to transcend the eminent gaps and take quantum development leaps.
  2. 2. The Arab Education-Quake A Holistic Creative Strategy to Transcend Gaps and Take Quantum Development Leaps The status of education in the Arab world is currently echoing an alarming siren. Though there have been several notable achievements and many reforms in public policy, they mainly fall under the “engineering” of education and fail to develop the educational tool for freedom and development. For the Arab world to be able to catch up with the knowledge revolution and succeed in creating a strong knowledge society, it needs to develop a holistic creative multi-player solution to transcend the eminent gaps and take quantum development leaps. In this paper I will depict the educational scene in the Arab world, highlighting the most dangerous current challenges, spot the light on the achievements that have taken place so far, and accordingly propose an effective solution that integrates all related pillars and the missing links considering the successful model of the European Union’s Creativity and Innovation strategy. Introduction “Arab countries missed the industrial age and continued to import most needed machinery and products from others. Similarly, they missed the nuclear age and did not contribute to unlocking the secrets of the atom or the peaceful uses of radiation. The space age also passed with little notice in the Arab region. It behaved as a spectator of a sport who does not know the rules of the game. Arab leaders believed that expenditure in scientific research was a luxury that only rich countries could afford.”1 Said Dr. El- Baz2 in his Reform in Arab Countries: The Role of Education In the introduction of the Arab Knowledge Report 2009 the purpose was narrated with passionate adamance to establish the Arab Knowledge Society. “The Report’s conception of knowledge has been broadened to include the spirit of knowledge, and thus its enlightenment and development dimensions. In doing so, it seeks to transcend those views of knowledge that emphasize technological and quantitative indicators, overlooking the fact that knowledge is freedom, and as such a path that requires further honing of the creative mechanisms of human intelligence.”3 The report succeeded in identifying the obstacles that stand in the way for the awaited Arab Renaissance and to building the Knowledge society, “These challenges include illiteracy, appropriateness of educational systems to serve development plans, science instruction with greater openness to the fruits of contemporary scientific knowledge in its various specializations, the relationship between education and the market (the need to link educational systems to the development requirements of Arab societies), and the relationship between education, unemployment, 1 Reform in Arab Countries: The Role of Education http://www.strategicforesight.com/iwforum/farouk.htm 2 Dr. Farouk El-Baz, member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, is Directo r of the Boston University Center for Remote Sensing and a veteran of the golden age of the Apollo space program 3 Arab Knowledge Report 2009: Towards Productive Intercommunication for Knowledge
  3. 3. and job opportunities (placing education at the service of production and the expansion of choices).” 4 of which I will be expanding upon here-below. The Arab Education-Quake With the many qualitative and quantitative problematic blocks that were found in education in the Arab world, one can easily see the gaps shake the whole foundation of education and development, especially that though there has been noticeable development in certain areas, the overall output portrays a dark image for a nation that once used to pioneer education. “How can these countries possibly build a knowledge economy if the rate of upper secondary school enrolment is less than 55 per cent for both males and females at a time when this rate exceeds 80 per cent in industrialized developed nations and the countries of Central Asia? ”5 When we consider primary school enrolment we find that “The statistics on net primary school Enrolment rates show that only four Arab countries approach the saturation point (95 per cent and above) according to this criterion, eight countries range between 80 per cent and 94 per cent, and six–Djibouti, Mauritania, Oman, Palestine, Yemen (and Saudi Arabia) 12 fall below this, with Djibouti showing a rate of less than 40 per cent. We should note, too, that only two countries (Bahrain and Tunisia) have attained the saturation point for female enrolment. These figures clearly reflect large disparities among Arab states.”6 A fact that we can’t disagree on is that “nine million children in the Arab region are out of school”. 7 “A study on the time allocated to school subjects in basic education in Arab countries during the last decade shows considerable variation between these countries in the ratios of class time allotted to religious education and foreign language instruction, a moderate variation in the class time dedicated to science and technology, social studies, the arts, and physical education, and general conformity in the amounts of time allotted to Arabic language and maths instruction.”8 The only area that was conforming with the rest of the world was “maths instruction (about 16 per cent) (UNDP, 2007a, in Arabic)”. However, when a “study on the performance of eighth-graders in maths and sciences in 2003 (UNDP, 2007a, in Arabic), in which ten Arab countries took part, aroused considerable dismay in Arab educational and political circles. In maths, the students from Arab countries that participated in this study ranked noticeably lower than the overall international average. They were in the company of students from ten other countries, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.”9 4 Arab Knowledge Report 2009: Towards Productive Intercommunication for Knowledge 5 Arab Knowledge Report 2009: Towards Productive Intercommunication for Knowledge 6 Arab Knowledge Report 2009: Towards Productive Intercommunication for Knowledge 7 Arab Knowledge Report 2009: Towards Productive Intercommunication for Knowledge 8 Arab Knowledge Report 2009: Towards Productive Intercommunication for Knowledge 9 Arab Knowledge Report 2009: Towards Productive Intercommunication for Knowledge
  4. 4. “The results of a 2003 study Arab countries also ranked at the bottom (coming in at between thirty eighth and fifty-first place out of fifty-two countries) in the science test. Again, the results were significantly lower than the international average, with the exception of Jordan which, with results equivalent to the global average, ranked thirtieth.” Now we turn our attention to higher education which was found to suffer from shortage of teachers “In 2005, the student-teacher ratio was 25:1, compared to the global average of 16:1. The Arab student teacher ratio is the highest among all regions of the world, including sub-Saharan Africa. Taking the global average as the norm, we find that, in 2005, the Arab region needed some 154,000 additional members in its educational staffs. This signifies that the higher education system in the Arab region does not ensure sufficient human resources with higher academic qualifications, especially doctoral degrees, to meet the needs of its teaching staffs autonomously”10 The educational system fails to equip students with the necessary skills for the workplace tremendously “Executives cite the lack of qualified personnel as the largest obstacle to innovation in the region. Despite high levels of unemployment -- and this indicates a clear mismatch between what schools supply and what the markets demand – demographic challenges loom large. With 35 percent of the population under the age of 15, Arab economies must create 100 million new jobs by 2020.”11 “In Egypt, it is estimated that each year about 600,000 youth leave school chasing 200,000 available jobs. Yet, employers still complain that they cannot hire adequately trained youth. Indeed, thirty percent of firms in the most recent investment climate assessment (ICA) identified skills and education of available workers as a major or very severe constraint to their operations and growth.”12 There are several other issues that further illustrate the painful scene like the hemorrhage of brains across all sectors, extreme high unemployment rates, lack of creative and artistic production and others that need to be integrated as constituents in the big picture, but were not expanded upon for brevity purposes. Engineered Achievements Though there is evidently a lot to work on to develop the knowledge society and strategically invest in the Arab human capital, there have been some considerable and celebrated achievements that ignite the hope machine. The development of expansive and reliable sources for data and information such as the Human Development Report 2003 and Arab Knowledge Report 2009 by UNDP surely provide us with tools 10 Arab Knowledge Report 2009: Towards Productive Intercommunication for Knowledge 11 A NEW MILLENNIUM OF KNOWLEDGE: HUMAN DEVELOPMENT IN THE ARAB WORLD 12 YOUTH.AN UNDERVALUED ASSET: TOWARDS A NEW AGENDA IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA
  5. 5. to first and foremost recognize the status of the Arab world, which is the number one step to move forward. A lot of effort has been invested in several areas that gave rise to numbers and statistics however not with a set comprehensive long-term strategy “Establishing equitable access required an accurate mapping of educational demand and the installation of buildings, teachers, and pedagogical materials. Demand was simple, predictable, and stable. Education systems were geared to ensure that everyone received the same educational service, and thus education management was essentially an exercise in ensuring that all component inputs remained in place and met uniform standards.”13. Multi- Players needed, Creativity to transcend What everyone has been asking for in the most renowned studies published is having an inclusive, multi-player strategy that is creative, innovative and holistic. Here by are some examples; “There must be a sustained partnership between the governments, private sector and civil society. Educators, intellectuals and the media can work together to assure such a partnership.”14 Dr. El Baz “We agree that we need change, we know what the problem is, we know what we want to reach, where we want to move to. It’s all outlined very well. What we don’t know is how do we start that process?”15 Amr Gohar “And, at this stage, you have to create public-private partnership scenarios in order to get the best out of both worlds, government with the facilitation of the procedures and laws to excel entrepreneurship, for instance, and the flexibility of the private sector to embrace new entrepreneurs to provide mentoring, to stimulate more small ventures and small and medium enterprises coming out to put seed capital into companies to start to create venture capital mechanisms.”16 Rami Khaoury “A multi- sectoral, inclusive, youth-centered approach toward existing sectors and programs is required”17 In conclusion it is translucent that everyone agrees on almost the same thing, what we need is to develop the methodology for implementation to be able to move forward. To have a Strategy that is holistic enough to encompass the respect and commitment for the revival of the enlightened Arab Culture, motivates all concerned entities of the society (Government, Public 13 The Road Not Travelled: Education Reform in the Middle East and North Africa. 14 Dr. Farouk El-Baz, Reform in Arab Countries: The Role of Education 15 At The Brookings Institution’s A New Millennium of Knowledge: Human Development in the Arab World, Washington, D.C. 2008 16 At The Brookings Institution’s A New Millennium of Knowledge: Human Development in the Arab World, Washington, D.C. 2008 17 Youth, An Undervalued Asset: Towards a New Agenda in the Middle East and North Africa
  6. 6. Private Partnerships, NGOs, Artists, Philanthropists, etc.), transcends time and boundaries, an ignites the passion of commitment across all sectors related to developing the Arab Knowledge holistically. This strategy therefore has to be a creative strategy that glues the gaps and strengthens the links of the main pillars of the Arab Education temple. “In recent years there has been a growing understanding of the role of creativity in human capital development. This has also increased the promotion of creativity within education systems. The development of creative thinking underpins two important global strategies: sustainable ecological development and national economic competitiveness. Both strategies depend on the creative capital of nations and are therefore directly linked to education systems’ power to address risk- taking, creativity and innovation at all levels of education.”18 Passi Sahlberg European Union’s Creativity and Innovation example The year 2009 was declared to be the Year of Creativity and Innovation for the European Union, was mainly inspired by the challenges of the financial crisis, for apparently when there is crisis creative thinking is the window of opportunity that opens to offer infinite solutions. “Creativity and innovative capacity have crucial long-term benefits for the economy, society, enterprises as well as individuals. Innovation and creativity are fundamental pillars for sustainable economic and societal growth.”19 Ján Figel’, European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth. The European Union has been orchestrating creativity and innovation across all its sectors, one of the most successful has been Creative Life Long Learning. Having a council of “Ambassadors” for the purpose, to foster and represent it, has encouraged the representation of multi-players across the European society regardless of geography, which in turn has turned the attention to the importance of having different and new diverse players, such as Edward De Bono the father of Creative Thinking, another Ambassador was a well known Chef, an Architect and so on. Building the creative future with respect of the creative legacies was the needle the whole fabric was sewed with, by having important featured programs and projects emanating from “Leonardo Da Vinci “ and “Jean Monnet”. These in turn create bonds that transcend the disparities and unite the society with creativity and artistic power that is employed for fostering all sectors. “New knowledge builds upon historical knowledge, and most innovations are new combinations of what is already there. Culture, with its respect for individual and collective memory, is important to 18 Creativity and Innovation through Life Long Learning 19 Creativity and Innovation Best Practices from EU programmes.
  7. 7. maintaining a sense of direction in the current context of restless change…..Creativity is a fundamental dimension of human activity. It thrives where there is dialogue between cultures, in a free, open and diverse environment with social and gender equality. It requires respect and legal protection for the outcomes of creative and intellectual work. Creativity is at the heart of culture, design and innovation, but everyone has the right to utilise their creative talent” Manifesto, European Ambassadors for Creativity and Innovation 2009 This strategy encompasses all the identified immediate challenges, and if applied as an “example” it would most probably lead to the aspired objectives for harnessing the Arab Human Capital. Developing a committee with “Ambassadors” of Culture, Art, Academia and other aspects, with the help of entities such as UNESCO and UNDP, to develop a holistic inclusive and creative strategy that develops projects to serve the purpose, revives passion for knowledge through renowned Arab Culture flags, and works on involving Governments, Public Private Partnerships, Professional Associations and NGOs, and other players that enhance and add value to the process, would ripple out to cover all addressed educational issues with creativity and innovation being in the center of the circle. It is important to note that this strategy has to not copy the European experience or be its replica, for it has to have the zealous commitment for developing the strategy from within the Arab context, however it is to be used as an example for a very successful methodology that is universal in application. Conclusion The Arab knowledge society is almost impossible to be foreseen through the many gaps and crucial challenges education is currently experiencing in the Arab world. Many researches and studies have concluded that a creative and innovative approach is needed, a holistic strategy that will expand to include multi -players of the society. The European Union’s Creativity and Innovation theme and the process in which it was integrated across all sectors especially life-long learning has been proven to be an excellent example, therefore benefiting from the experience in terms of developing a holistic and creative strategy could be an effective tool to immediately embark on seeing light through the cracks and begin working on the solution rather than the problem.

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