The Arab world is a predominant part of the globe and holds a distinctive position. The Arab world comprises of many independent and powerful regions including countries like Egypt, Qatar, Oman, Muscat, Jordan, Tunisia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Morocco, Bahrain, Lebanon and several others. All these countries collectively form the ‘Arab’ world.
This region of the Middle East is populated by majorly Muslims and is very stable as well as being supremely powerful. These countries are one step ahead and competing against other stronger states with stable and budding economies.
However, despite being rich in natural resources and manpower, the one thing that keeps the Arab world behind other competitor states is the access the locals have to basic education.
The basic literacy rate is considerably lower and this region lacks basic educational reforms which have an adverse impact on the welfare of all the Arab nations.
Educational system of Arab World
Education is a very important key element that plays a crucial role in building and sustaining stable economies of countries. The role that education plays in the Arab world is no different. It is much needed for the social and national welfare of all Arab world countries. It will not be fair to say that the states and governments of the Arab countries are not aware of the importance of education for a developing and progressing society.
In fact, in the past several years a lot of struggles have been made to make the conditions of education sector better. However, most of the investments and struggles have all gone into vain. Despite the countless efforts of the state to improve the educational sector and make it more rewarding and contributing – so far nothing major has been observed.
This is important to consider as the Arab world is budding with young and capable talent along with numerous natural, human and financial resources!
Background of Education in Arab world
All countries that make up the Arab world are Muslim countries and celebrate Islam as their religion. Hence, the first word that they learn from their Holy Book ‘Quran’ is Iqr’a; which means ‘read’. This makes it quite evident that the first lesson the religion teaches is to learn and acquire knowledge. Learning is part of religion which means it translates into faithfulness to God. Islam has a vast history of learning and all Muslim scholars, laureates, and intellectuals were part of the Arab world in the past.
Hence, it is pretty obvious that education was given importance in the primeval times and was part of the religion in the early times. However, this is not where the educational history of the Arab world ends. In fact, this was only the beginning of learning in the Middle East and appeared to be moving in a positive direction at the time.
Unfortunately, things started changing adversely over the years. In the last several decades, the Arab region somewhat was driven away from the philosophy and essence of acquiring knowledge. As a result, the Arab world was left isolated in a world that was rapidly progressing on educational grounds.
History of education in the Arab world reflects on how the Arabs have established themselves as a stronger nation and powerful economy but missed out on progress in so many other ways because of being deprived of basic education.
- Missed out the advancement of industrial age
It is true that all Arab countries continued to grow stronger and built stable economies but it should not be forgotten that all progress was made by ‘importing’ machinery and other technological goods from other countries. The reason was simple – Arab countries were missing out the advancement of the industrial age.
- No contribution to scientific knowledge
There is no visible contribution that the Arab countries made for unveiling the fundamentals of sciences. No Arab country will ever be mentioned when the history of nuclear age will be talked about. This part of the world made no significant contributions to exploring the depths of atoms and devising a peaceful method of bringing the nuclear energy to use.
- Left unaware of space age
As surprising at it might sound but the truth is that no Arab country was aware of the progressive space age for a very long time. The example of these countries is much similar to the audience of a football match who is not even aware of the simple rules of the game!
Throughout the years, the distance that the Middle East maintained from basic knowledge did not go unnoticed. On numerous occasions, these regions were questioned for the lack of interest they had in the progress of education and scientific research. The Arabs believed that all this was an ‘expense’ only the developed and rich countries could afford and was best for them to maintain a distance from it.
Literacy rate of Arab World
The Arab world has always lagged behind in the educational sector a great deal. It is imperative to mention at this point that all Arab countries have witnessed a fair share of highs and lows in the education sector. With this being said, it is important to mention that a substantial growth has been observed in the literacy rate of the Arab world in the past few years. The growth can, of course, be attributed to the tireless and conscious efforts that all Arab countries are making to promote education in the region. For a long time, the Arab world faced isolation from the rest of the world only because it lagged behind in education. Hence, it faced a shut out from the rest of the world.
In the recent years, a substantial increase in the literacy rate has been observed. Recent statistics reveal that the literacy rate of the youth of Arab countries i.e. children aged 15 and below is higher than the adults residing in this part of the world. The literacy rate expanded from 63 percent to 76 percent in a span of over 12 years.
Strength of Education System
When you look at the current condition of the education system of the Arab world, you will be a little perplexed and overwhelmed by all the facts you come across. The history will reveal a start that appeared to be leading in a positive direction. However, not long ago you could see the Arab world countries suffering in their education sector; only until recently. Recently, it has been observed that the education system of the Arab world has become stronger and has more strength to offer. This does leave one feeling a little confused about the current conditions and strength of the education system of the Arab world.
When talking about the strength and power of the educational sector of all countries of the Arab world, it is important to remember the variations that exist between different countries. All Arab countries are different and there are prominent differences that exist amongst not only the Arab countries but also the rural and urban parts of the region. Hence, it is a little difficult to give a definite statement regarding the progress and state of power of education sector in different Arab countries as it is difficult to observe uniformity amongst them all.
Great training requires great administration, yet that is deficient in the district at both the focal government and the neighborhood school level. Services of instruction accept an exceptionally unified part and keep on being ruled by dictator administration frameworks. Besides, most services need vision, fitting vital arranging, proficient supervisory units, and able HR. Working under conditions horrible to advance, pioneers of any new activities will confront a large group of bureaucratic obstacles, including inept officers, a hefty portion of whom are degenerate, impervious to change, or unbiased. Educating in most Arab states keeps on being exceptionally instructive, instructor coordinated, and not helpful for cultivating explanatory free considering. On top of that, Arab nations have a lack of qualified educators and the greater part of those as of now utilized have moderately low pass rates and constrained open doors for expert improvement.
How does Education relate to Democracy?
Democracy shares a direct connection with education in today’s day and time. We live in a world where democracy is given a lot of importance. However, it should never be forgotten what a great impact education has on democracy. Education relates to democracy of any state on various levels. For instance, educational programs in all democracy based countries teach skill and impart strong social values to the citizens. All Arab countries are also a strong proponent of democracy. Therefore, in an effort to become a strong and stable democratic nation, it is important that the Arab leaders do not negate or overlook education in any manner. Democracy is the fundamental basis on which the future for a brighter and happier Middle East stands.
Education relates to democracy because knowledge is crucial to train young minds to get awareness and start critically thinking and analyzing situations. By imparting knowledge amongst the youth of the Arab world, one is actually training them to participate in politics and creating a stable economic state for their region in the future. Education is mandatory for the basic understanding and apprehension of politics and state-based activities. The Arab countries should take inspiration from countries like South Korea and Denmark who have smartly utilized education to create moral, social and political awareness amongst the youth of their countries. Youth is the future and that is how it should be treated. In relation to democracy, several educational programs should be conducted throughout the various parts of Arab to encourage participation, collaboration and active communication of several levels.
Demographics of literacy rate of Arab League countries
UNESCO is a social organization that is centrally based in Paris, France. This United Nations organization plays a key role in promoting peace, harmony, and unity on a global scale by using education, societies, and cultures as key elements. The Arab League is also part of UNESCO. All countries that are part of the ‘Arab League’ are the ones that come with the majority of the Arab population. Hence, all these countries are included in the statistical reports of UNESCO. According to recent statistical analysis, the following are the updated demographics of literacy rate of all Arab League countries. The following demographics are based on the ranking in accordance to literacy rate for the 22 member countries of the Arab League.
- Egypt: Literacy rate 78%, the total population is 89,100,000 and ranks in 16th position on a global scale as per its current literacy rate.
- Algeria: Literacy rate 80.2%, the total population is 39,500,000 and ranks in the 33rd position on a global scale as per its current literacy rate.
- Iraq: Literacy rate 69.2%, the total population is 37,425,000 and ranks in 36th position on a global scale as per its current literacy rate.
- Morocco: Literacy rate 72.4%, the total population is 33,666,179 and ranks in 40th position on a global scale as per its current literacy rate.
- Saudi Arabia: Literacy rate 94.7%, the total population is 31,560,000 and ranks in 45th position on a global scale as per its current literacy rate.
- Sudan: Literacy rate 75.9%, the total population is 38,448,000 and ranks in 35th position on a global scale as per its current literacy rate.
- Bahrain: Literacy rate 95.7%, the total population is 1,359,000 and ranks on the 155th position on a global scale as per its current literacy rate.
- Comoros: Literacy rate 77.5%, the total population is 83,000 and ranks on the 163rd position on a global scale as per its current literacy rate.
- Libya: Literacy rate 91%, the total population is 6,449,000 and ranks on the 103rd position on a global scale as per its current literacy rate.
- Jordan: Literacy rate 96.7%, the total population is 6,745,023 and ranks on the 106th position on a global scale as per its current literacy rate.
- Tunisia: Literacy rate 81.8%, the total population is 10,982,800 and ranks in 77th position on a global scale as per its current literacy rate.
- Qatar: Literacy rate 97.8%, the total population is 2,321,000 and ranks on the 149th position on a global scale as per its current literacy rate.
- Palestine: Literacy rate not reported; the total population is 4,650,368 and ranks on the 123rd position on a global scale as per its current literacy rate.
- United Arab Emirates: Literacy rate 93.8%, the total population is 9,589,000 and ranks in the 93rd position on a global scale as per its current literacy rate.
- Djibouti: Literacy rate has not been reported by USECO; the total population is 923,000 and ranks on the 158th position on a global scale as per its current literacy rate.
- Somalia: Literacy rate has not been reported; the total population is 10,456,000 and ranks on the 185th position on a global scale as per its current literacy rate.
- Yemen: Literacy rate 70.1%, the total population is 25,502,000 and ranks on the 49h position on a global scale as per its current literacy rate.
- Kuwait: Literacy rate 96.2%, the total population is 3,589,000 and ranks on the 138th position on a global scale as per its current literacy rate.
- Oman: Literacy rate 94.8%, the total population is 3,383,000 and ranks on the 139th position on a global scale as per its current literacy rate.
- Lebanon: Literacy rate 93.9%, the total population is 4,468,000 and ranks on the 126th position on a global scale as per its current literacy rate.
- Mauritania: Literacy rate 52.1%, the total population is 3,778,254 and ranks on the 134th position on a global scale as per its current literacy rate.
- Syria: Literacy rate 86.4%, the total population is 17,740,340 and ranks in 55th position on a global scale as per its current literacy rate.
Current conditions of educational process in Arab World
Despite the demographics (based on recent statistics) seem pretty good in comparison to the previous situation of education in Arab countries; there is still room for improvement. There are hundreds of challenges that still persist in the world of education. It is of course, undeniable that all Arab countries ( the majority of them) are taking huge steps to promote education and educational practices within the region. Teaching methods along with learning techniques are both being promoted on a wide scale; particularly in the public education zone. The one serious drawback that has been observed through it all is that more attention is being given to the material things such as school buildings, infrastructure, and classroom conditions than the quality of education. Quantity is being preferred over quality which is definitely not a positive thing. The Arab countries need to take strict measures to promote good and quality education throughout the region if they want to develop and prosper in the long run.
As far as the present scenario is concerned, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that majority of the Arab world countries have finally become successful in establishing and sustaining good quality education in major parts of the Middle Eastern region. All levels of education have been successfully worked upon; from primary to the higher secondary and now university education is also progressing. The gender discrimination in education in Arab countries has considerably lessened as well. A high ratio of females, if not equal, is able to get access to basic education just like their male counterparts. Whilst all the goods parts are not possible to be overlooked, the truth also remains intact that there is still a lot of room for improvement and changes as far as quality of education is concerned in Arab countries.
How does the Arab world and UNESCO coordinate to promote education?
UNESCO as an authorized United Nations forum functioning at an international scale has the power to promote education in the Middle East. This is why UNESCO is utilizing its resources and capacities to mutually coordinate with the Arab world to promote and encourage educational advancement and growth throughout the Middle East. UNESCO is cooperating with UAE to promote education by functioning from the regional education center for educational planning and training. This center is centrally based in Sharjah, UAE and is making conscious efforts to promote culture, technology, and communication throughout the region. This cooperation between UAE and UNESCO is also attracting other countries from around the globe to take an active participation in the promotion of education in the Middle East.
Condition of Education System in Arab World
In the recent years, it has been observed that the Arab world is full of achievements over recent decades by the growth in the volume of hiring replacement necessary training as part of education. However, a significant reduction in the degree of development of the education has been observed. This particularly holds true for young women especially in the age of meetings in any case, for all the evidence of instructional opportunities, due to lack of opportunities. This, of course, is spoken of regardless the number of poor and underprivileged Arab countries.
Quality of education is a persistent challenge
The quality of education is one of the biggest challenges that the Arabs have to face in the present times. It is more difficult to sustain the quality of good education rather than to establish it in the first place. Active efforts are of course being made to maintain a stable quality of education throughout the region. However, many Arab countries have definitely found it difficult to maintain the quality of education.
Other challenges faced by Arab World in regard to educational development
The instruction frameworks in the Arab nations are confronting different difficulties too, remarkably an absence of political will to propel the instructive procedure. A few governments have diverse needs and don’t dispense adequate financing for the instruction division. More or less, the absence of political will and responsibility by the state and every one of its organs to propel training impedes advance in such manner as the instructive procedure is an extensive one and requires the commitment of all gatherings.
Without a doubt, the nonappearance of security in some Arab nations because of inner classes or common wars has likewise frustrated the instructive procedure and denied school training to a huge number of understudies. Besides, Arab states need exact, far-reaching and current databases and insights. It is essential that the accessible information and data are not generally in view of logical strategies, and don’t help chiefs in taking suitable choices. There is additionally less private segment interest in the instructive procedure than is seen in different nations. Endeavors of common society out in the open area instruction are plagued with competitions, the absence of coordination and irregularities.
Problems of Education in Arab World
First and foremost, before we jump into discussing all problems of education in the Arab world it is important to remind yourself that there are twenty-two Arab countries in totality. Hence, there is a lot of variation between the countries on various levels. Secondly, the nature of problems faced by each state is understandably going to be different. And lastly, it is important to understand that all problems that are faced today by the states for any sector are not sudden, but rather have piled up over years and years to become a serious issue.
Primary education problems
Problems that persist on primary level of education include
- The population of Arab countries is increasing at a very fast pace. The increase in population is creating trouble because the available resources fail to accommodate to growing needs.
- A limited number of schools is a problem. With an increase in population, the number of available schools should also be increasing.
- Lack of awareness amongst parents and other society members to conduct learning on a societal scale.
Higher education problems
The following are some of the most common higher education problems being faced by Arab world countries, according to a recent research.
- Lack of higher educational institutions and universities is a serious problem being faced by people.
- Lack of research resources and facilities is a budding problem for people who want to continue studies further at a higher level.
- Absence of trained faculty and mismanagement at universities leads to many unclear problems
Need of educational reforms in Arab World
The importance of quality education is not possible to deny for the economic and social progress and development. In fact, education plays a crucial role in an economy to progress and sustain a healthy growth rate in the long run. The sooner countries realize the importance of education for economic growth and persistent development; it is better. It is important to remember that long-term and stable economic development is only possible in the 21st century by acquiring education and promoting learning on a wider scale. Schools should play an imperative role in making the citizens and locals of the Arab countries learn all the basics and fundamentals from a young age. There are a lot of basic elements that are mandatory for the youth of the Arab countries to learn and practice in order to keep up a stable pace with development and progress on a global scale. Educational reforms are much needed by the Arab world because this is the only way the locals of these regions will be able to acquire basic skills like
- Critical thinking
- Problem solving
- Observation and analysis
The basic underlying problem with the education setup of the Arab world is that they fail to impart the basics of knowledge amongst students in all the above-mentioned areas. As a result of which, the Arab world remains to be blocked away from the rest of the world and also in dire need for educational reforms. The Arab education system lacks the essential resources that are required to educate and create awareness amongst the youth and locals in the relevant fields.
Another reason why there is an increasing need for educational reforms in the Arab world is that the youth of Arab countries are flag bearers who are destined to shape the future of their states. Around one-third part of the total Arab population is still considered the ‘youth’ which means they are aged 15 and below. Therefore, it is imperative to bring immediate educational reforms in the Middle East so that the youth can be trained to play a significant role in shaping the modern societies and creating a stable future for their countries. The investments that the governments will make in the present day education sector will play a major role in building a stable economy and democratic future Arab nation. As a citizen, every local of all Arab countries like Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Egypt are entitled to play a vital role for their respective states and contribute to its progress in the long run.
Possible Solutions of Educational Growth in Arab World
With so many challenges and problems that the Arab world is currently facing regarding the educational sector, it is crucial that effective long-term solutions are suggested. A promising economy and democratic nation are highly dependent on an educated society. Literate and well-educated individuals all play a very important role in the progress and appraisal of their states; particularly in present times when the competition has become so fierce. While we just highlighted all the problems and discussed all challenges that the education sector of the Arab world is facing currently; we now make some helpful suggestions. All solutions are a personal point of view that is being suggested as drastic measures on both primary and secondary level of education.
Suggested solutions for primary level of education
The following are all possible solutions suggested for the improvement of the primary level of education in the Arab world.
- International Assessment
Every year there are several international level assessment tests that are conducted for different fields of education such as mathematics, sciences, and literature etc. These assessment tests encourage the participation of international students from practically all regions of the world to evaluate their competency. These international assessments are the best way to analyze your personal competence and get a complete analysis of your individual capabilities. The international assessment test should be encouraged at a primary level to create awareness and self-acknowledgement amongst the youth. So far Jordan is the only Arab country that has participated in this test.
- Utilization of national wealth for educational causes
Despite suffering and facing a lot of challenges in the education sector; Arab countries are wealthy because of the immense natural resources that they are blessed with. The wealth of the state should be utilized to promote education in the region. All required finances should be utilized to avail latest educational opportunities for the appraisal of the Arab society.
- Promoting education in rural areas
The Arab world remains to be one of those parts of the world where even till present date there is an evident distinction between urban and rural life. Whilst education is being promoted in the cities and developed parts, the rural areas are being overlooked which should certainly not be the case. Every child has the right to basic education and thus, schools and educational institutions for primary level of education should be established by the governments in the rural parts.
- Hiring thoroughly trained staff
Primary education is the early most years and acts as the building blocks for the rest of your academic career to stand on. Hence, it is important that the foundation is laid out right. Psychology offers evidence that during the early years of life, the environment plays an undeniable role in learning and acquiring knowledge for a child. It is, therefore, crucial that the best staff and teachers are recruited at primary level schools to offer the best learning environment to young minds.
- Education beyond the school boundaries
The Arab world has made considerable efforts in the past many years to reform the educational setup in the Middle East and improve the conditions. However, despite many efforts, no prominent positive changes have been observed. The reason might be the fact that the Arabs want to limit education within the confined boundaries of education. It is high time that the Arabs acknowledge that education is learning without any boundaries. Families, parents and the society play’s just as much role in learning as the classrooms at school will! Everyone should play their part in order to make education flourish and progress in the region.
Suggested solutions for secondary level of education
Similar to the primary challenges and suggested solutions to solve them in the long run, there are solutions for the secondary i.e. higher level of education in the Arab world as well.
- Devising a well-stated education policy
Higher education is different than primary education in so many ways. While primary education is the fundamental foundation for a solid academic career to stand upon; the secondary education is the actual thing. This is when the goals are finalized and directions are set for individuals that would, later on, affect the state. Hence, all Arab countries should make sure that they devise a full-fledged education policy or plan that guides the members of the state and sets a route for them to follow.
- Government support
Government or state level support is crucial, particularly for higher education institutions. The universities have more weight if they are public rather than privatized. Similarly, the funding of government can be very helpful for the development of universities and similar higher education institutions.
- Bring the university campuses to multipurpose use
Most of the universities in Arab countries are only open during the day while remaining vacant and useless for the rest of the time. However, the government of all these countries needs to understand that universities are walls that have a lot of knowledge and skill confined to the vicinity. Hence, university campuses should be brought into multipurpose use; they should be open to youth and cater to family activities as well.
- Creating active collaboration with foreign universities
The Arab countries should create collaboration with other foreign universities that not only have been around for a long time but are also recognized and acknowledged on a global scale. Hence, it becomes imperative for the local Arab universities to establish affiliations with foreign universities and create programs like student exchange programs to promote talent and skills.
- Recruiting top-notch faculty
As important as the qualified and capable staff is for primary schooling, the same holds true for higher education level. In fact, the importance of top-notch faculty at a higher education level is even more because this is when the adults are fully aware of what they are being taught and have clear set directions of where they want to go in life.
Future of education in the Arab world
The history of education might have been disappointing but the present scenario appears to be much higher lifted and improved in comparison to the past. In the present times, you can see that a high ratio of the youth of Arab countries is actively involved in acquiring knowledge. This is pretty obvious from the increase in literacy rate over the years. All of the 22 Arab countries are aware of the importance of education and the crucial role that it will play for the progress and development of the society. In fact, in the past several years a lot of struggles have been made to make the conditions of education sector better. While there are countless challenges that still persist and need to be tackled at primary to higher educational levels; the truth is that the future of education certainly is bright for Arab countries. Technology and social media are now playing an active role to create awareness amongst the people. These are mediums, other than the standard school buildings and classrooms that play an active role in educating people such as the internet or access to computers. With the advancement of technology and awareness through social media in the Arab countries, the education rate is also expected to continue to keep rising in the long run. This is, of course, a positive indication.