Arab states adopt plan to raise an ‘enlightened’ generation

The 22 member states of the Arab League, which includes 12 Northern African countries, have adopted an education development framework aimed at establishing high-quality Arab education systems that are at the forefront of higher education and scientific research and new information and communication technologies.

The framework was approved on 23 September during a virtual meeting of Arab education ministers.

The framework was drawn up by the Arab Parliament in cooperation with UNESCO, the Morocco-based Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), the Tunisia-based Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALECSO), the Arab Bureau of Education for the Gulf States, the Union of Arab universities, the Sudan-based Federation of Arab Scientific Research Councils, and the Egypt-based Social Affairs Sector of the League of Arab States.

Underlining the need for the framework, Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said at the meeting: “Education in its traditional forms is no longer sufficient. Rather, good education must be accompanied by continuous training and the strengthening of the ability to self-learn … This is what the new economic and technological reality imposes on us, with all its challenges and transformations.”

Reform for survival

Mishaal bin Fahm Al-Salami, president of the Arab Parliament, echoed this sentiment when he said: “Education reform in the Arab world is a necessity for survival, and is not an intellectual or elitist luxury. It is one of the basic pillars of Arab national security and the cornerstone for raising an informed and enlightened Arab generation.”

The framework calls for establishing an educational environment that helps in critical thinking and the ability to solve problems and the development of educational curricula that develop the scientific and creative capabilities of students and refine their skills.

It also calls for the development of educational processes in order to better meet the requirements of the labour market and sustainable development, as well as ensuring compulsory and free education in all stages.

In addition, it aims to promote free and independent universities and scientific research centres and also calls for the development of distance education in the Arab world.

The framework will be submitted to Arab leaders for adoption and approval at the next Arab Summit, after which it is to be developed into programmes, projects and implementation plans by the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALECSO).

Suggested measures

Atta-ur-Rahman, UNESCO science prize laureate and former coordinator general of the Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation of the 57-country Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, which includes the 22 Arab states, told University World News: “The Arab education development framework must call upon universities to firstly have a contractual system of appointment of faculty [members], with international evaluation of each faculty member once every two years to ensure good academic standards.

“Secondly, universities should have at least 30% of their annual budgets set aside for research and development (R&D) so that they become genuine research institutions of international standard,” Atta-ur-Rahman said.

“Thirdly, universities should set aside funds for international patenting and give rewards to faculty for applied commercially-oriented research. Finally, universities should encourage innovation and entrepreneurship by establishing strong linkages with industry and agriculture, and by establishing large technology parks and business incubators.”

Algerian mathematician Professor Sadallah Boubaker-Khaled, from École Normale Supérieure in Algiers, Algeria, told University World News that “the Arab education development framework must envisage ways to redirect students from traditional and overcrowded universities, especially in North Africa, towards technical and vocational education to boost the employability of the youth”.