Call to tackle Middle East education 'crisis'

09 Oct 2010

 The Education Project conference in Bahrain has opened with a plea for urgent reform to tackle the educational ‘crisis’ in the Middle East.

The conference heard that failure to do so would risk the dangers of high unemployment and social unrest in the region, which would affect the rest of the world.

 Shaikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa, CEO of the Bahrain Economic Development Board, said there was a ‘mismatch’ between the skills that young people have and the needs of employment. 


He said reform was needed because countries in the Gulf had to prepare for what happens when the oil runs out.   ‘While we have abundant natural resources we need to diversify. as the only sustainable future is a highly educated population’, he said.


 In the same debate, Dr Bassem Awadallah, CEO of Tomoh Advisory, from the United Arab Emirates, issued a wake-up call for countries in the Middle East. 


 He said that while some countries in the Middle East and North Africa ‘have realised the extent of the crisis’ there were still many that ‘are still in denial and want to keep their society closed. They must ask which is more dangerous: lack of educational reform or continuing high levels of unemployment and social instability’.


 The conference was told that reform was particularly urgent in the Gulf because the population is growing faster than in most parts of the world,  and it also has a very high proportion of under-25‘s.  As Dr. Awadallah said: ‘we have a crisis in our system’. 


 However, there was disagreement about the direction education reform should take. Some speakers from the developed world urged ‘transformational’ learning, geared to the needs of the ‘internet generation’, with a focus more on developing skills than on the traditional sets of knowledge.


 But others said you could not export education systems from the developed to the developing world. Charles Leadbeater, author of Learning from Extremes, said what was applicable in one part of the world was not necessarily useful in another.


He criticised the trend which had led to people all over the world to adopt national strategies which were often not relevant to their students.  As he put it: ‘The idea that a national curriculum in Kenya is applicable for kids in a slum <is wrong>...when what they most need to learn is how not to become HIV positive.’

User Comments

Iftikhar Ahmad - 09 Oct 2010

State Funded Muslim Schools

Bilingual Muslims children have a right, as much as any other faith group, to be taught their culture, languages and faith alongside a mainstream curriculum. More faith schools will be opened under sweeping reforms of the education system in England. There is a dire need for the growth of state funded Muslim schools to meet the growing needs and demands of the Muslim parents and children. Now the time has come that parents and community should take over the running of their local schools. Parent-run schools will give the diversity, the choice and the competition that the wealthy have in the private sector. Parents can perform a better job than the Local Authority because parents have a genuine vested interest. The Local Authority simply cannot be trusted.

The British Government is planning to make it easier to schools to “opt out” from the Local Authorities. Muslim children in state schools feel isolated and confused about who they are. This can cause dissatisfaction and lead them into criminality, and the lack of a true understanding of Islam can ultimately make them more susceptible to the teachings of fundamentalists like Christians during the middle ages and Jews in recent times in Palestine. Fundamentalism is nothing to do with Islam and Muslim; you are either a Muslim or a non-Muslim.

There are hundreds of state primary and secondary schools where Muslim pupils are in majority. In my opinion all such schools may be opted out to become Muslim Academies. This mean the Muslim children will get a decent education. Muslim schools turned out balanced citizens, more tolerant of others and less likely to succumb to criminality or extremism. Muslim schools give young people confidence in who they are and an understanding of Islam’s teaching of tolerance and respect which prepares them for a positive and fulfilling role in society. Muslim schools are attractive to Muslim parents because they have better discipline and teaching Islamic values. Children like discipline, structure and boundaries. Bilingual Muslim children need Bilingual Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods, who understand their needs and demands.

None of the British Muslims convicted following the riots in Bradford and Oldham in 2001 or any of those linked to the London bombings had been to Islamic schools. An American Think Tank studied the educational back ground of 300 Jihadists; none of them were educated in Pakistani Madrasas. They were all Western educated by non-Muslim teachers. Bilingual Muslim children need bilingual Muslim teachers as role models. A Cambridge University study found that single-sex classes could make a big difference for boys. They perform better in single-sex classes. The research is promising because male students in the study saw noticeable gains in the grades. The study confirms the Islamic notion that academic achievement is better in single-sex classes.
Iftikhar Ahmad

Post a comment

After posting your comment you will need to confirm it by checking your email and clicking the confirmation that will be sent to you.

Comments will appear once reviewed for appropriate content.