BAHRAIN: New university combats entrenched attitudes

At Bahrain Polytechnic, a lecturer displays a controversial Ralph Lauren advertisement in which a model's waist appears smaller than her head and asks students how they would avoid a similar marketing debacle, writes Abeer Allam for the Financial Times. For further education in the Arab world, this is a fresh approach. Formal lectures and rote learning are the dominant teaching methods in public universities rather than the development of problem solving skills or practical knowledge.

But in the red and blue buildings of Bahrain Polytechnic, which was launched last year, teachers from New Zealand, Australia and the UK now offer pragmatic instruction in fields such as accounting, marketing and logistics for the first time. The university, which has 900 students, and expects 2,000 next year, is a focal point of the government's National Education Reform, which aims to equip students for the needs of the workplace, rather than allowing them to accumulate academic credentials from hours in the classroom.

As many as 20% of schools and 40% of vocational training institutes are failing their students, according to an October report by the country's newly established Quality Assurance Authority for Education and Training (QAAET). Bahrain spends up to 11% of its budget on education. But glamorous buildings and expensive programmes has produced unimpressive results in the Arab world, says a recent report by the UNDP.
Full report on the Financial Times site