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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.

Dec 27, 2010

Education in the Arab World

Several posts were written before on the poor quality of education in the Arab world in general and the meager scientific academic research as well. Nevertheless, recently an international survey of the quality of education in 65 countries has been made public. The survey is conducted every three years by the Program for International Student Assessments or “PISA”.

PISA, conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, based in Paris, is a set of standardized tests weighs reading comprehension, mathematics and science and is taken by half a million 15 year olds in 65 countries.

The survey showed teenagers in Shanghai to be the best educated in the world. Also, Finnish and South Korean students’ performances were high and far ahead of the United States. According to the report, American students ranked 30th in math and 20th in sciences.

It has been well known that the educational quality at the lower level in the U.S. has been on a gradual decline since the 1970s. This lead to stern words from the U.S. education secretary, Mr. Duncan, who said that we are being out-educated. However, test scores also reflected negatively on Western European countries. The report came as an awakening call to many countries, which reflects that Asia in general is pushing hard in the field of education, and scientific research, which has begun to pay off for them.

A survey of the quality of education in the Arab world will reflect worse results of student performances. It has been reported that in the quality of education Egypt ranked 129 out of 134 states. This means that Egypt ranked among the ten lowest countries (ahram.org, 12/9/10). There are obvious reasons behind the deterioration of education in Egypt. First, the financial resources allocated to education are very small and 83% of it is spent on the salaries of teachers and other staff members. This means that only a small percentage of money is allocated to education is spent on students to improve the quality of education. Second, the increases in population contributed to large class size. During 2009, 2, 217, 409 babies were born in Egypt. During the same year, 476, 297 people died. This translates into a 1, 741, 112 population increase. It remains to be seen what the impact of such population increases will be on schools and educational facilities.

This should be viewed in relation to the small educational budget. This is why Egypt has been unable to lower its illiteracy rate, which is still more than 1/3 of the total population. According to Dr. Ahmad Darwish, the Minister of Administrative Development, Egypt needs to build 1,000 schools per year to accommodate the population increase. Furthermore, it has been reported that only 28% of children between the age of 4 and 6 years attend school. Also, the dropout rate is 16% among students between the ages of 6 and 14 years old. (www.ahram.org, 11/14/10).


The deterioration of the quality of education is reflected at the higher educational levels as well. The UNISECO educational report for the year 2010 stated that scientific research in the Arab world is not that significant. During the past four decades, money allocated for scientific research has been below the average of world rates, which fluctuate between 1.0 and 0.1% of the GDP. For example, Egypt allocated less than 0.23% of its GDP for its scientific research while Tunisia ranked number one in the Arab world since 2007 (it allocates 1% of its GDP to scientific research). Saudi Arabia allocates 0.05% and is ranked at the bottom of the list in the Arab world in terms of spending on scientific research.

The report revealed also that the correlation between population and scientists in the Arab world is very low. There are 373 researchers per one million people, while the world average is 1,081 researchers per one million people.

It is a tragic thing that many Arab scientists leave their countries due to the lack of opportunities at home. What adds to the deterioration of scientific research is not only the lack of funds but also the high unemployment among that part of the population. This is the major factor that puts the Arab world way behind the rest of the world. In the mean time, Arab states need to face the challenges facing them such as scarcity of water, increasing desertification, declining of agricultural productivity and more reliance on food imports. High unemployment rates exceed 20%. The illiteracy rate is nearly 50%. Meanwhile, more money is spent on the import of military hardware to ensure the ruling political leaders’ survival.

The major factor behind the problems facing the Arab world is the absence of democracy, transparency, and accoun

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