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The Middle East has traditionally been important for the world economy. The Middle East situation today has an impact on all aspects of life in America and much of the world.

Only by understanding the motivations of the various factions in the Middle East can we hope to understand how to promote peace and national security for Middle Eastern nations, Europe, and the United States.

Oct 24, 2009

Demise of Education in the Arab World

Arab media as well as Western media have recently reported that the quality of education is regressing in the Arab World. This regression is widening the gap between the Arab World and the developed world.

The Economist (10/17/09) mentioned the listing of the world top 500 universities, none of the Arab universities were included. However, six Israeli universities were listed.

The lack of progress in the Arab World is due to more than one factor:
1. Arab academic institutions lack the autonomy that prevails in the developed world. Academic institutions are under the tutelage of the Minister of Higher Education. Political interference, which is suppressing freedom of expression and innovation, restrains creativity and progress.
2. The educational budget allocated to universities and other higher institutions, is small and does not meet the basic needs such institutions require.
3. Financial support for scientific research is meager and does not support innovative research.

The Egyptian newspaper, Al Masry Al Yom (10/20/09), mentioned the UNESCO report that dealt with monies spend on research in the world. Egypt was at the bottom of the list by comparison to India, Brazil and Argentina. It has, since 2002, allocated only 0,2% of its gross domestic products (GDP) for scientific research.

I was not surprised that the Arab Gulf countries ranked below Egypt, since they are busy building 'sky scrapers'!!

The report further stated that Israel was ranked number one country in the world to spend 4.7% of its (GDP) on research, followed by Japan, which spends 3.4%. The United States ranked third in spending 2.7% of its (GDP) for scientific research.

Other factors affecting the educational system in the Arab world are:
1. Lack of well equipped libraries with recent publications.
2. Hardship students face when searching for references.
3. Absence of advanced computer centers considering the large number of students attending universities.

According to an article in Al Masry Al Yom (10/15/09), Egyptian universities are graduating ignorant students by the thousands.

Such criticism does not reflect students' ability or willingness to learn. But, it is the lack of a sound educational system which in itself does not encourage learning, does not stimulate students, and does not promote creativity.

Egypt is a poor country and its resources are limited. However, enhancing the quality of education is fundamental. Education is the foundation for progress, and human development in any society.

One solution would be for Egypt to pass a new educational tax law of 1% to 2% on all commercial transactions. The revenue collected would be used to supplement the government educational budget for scientific research, high tech-equipments, and library resources . The implementation of such proposal would require politicians with a vision, who are aware, and who are interested in Egypt's future needs.

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