Gulf States left behind technologically

21 Apr, '07

And the most suffering one of those is Bahrain:

The United Arab Emirates led the way in adoption of information and communications technology, ranking 29th among 122 countries worldwide. Nearby Qatar was No. 36, Bahrain No. 50 and Kuwait No. 54.

But data from previous reports show the Emirates fell six places in two years. Kuwait dropped eight places in a year and Bahrain, plagued by poor education and innovation, plummeted 17 places in two years.

[…]

In Bahrain, where a huge Shiite Muslim underclass is dominated by a wealthy ruling Sunni minority, 80 percent of the government budget is consumed by about 50 families that own most of the businesses in the tiny island country, said Mukhtar al-Hashimi, dean of the School of Information and Technology at University College of Bahrain.

Bahrain has plummeted in the rankings since 2005 because of slipping education, research and development and judicial independence.

“In the Gulf, none of the universities really have a research center, where they bring their talented people to innovate,” al-Hashimi said. “The rich are becoming richer, the middle class is earning less.”
AP via Bismark Tribune

Education is without a doubt the most important catalyst for increasing wealth in a country; hence, improve and increase the numbers of the middle class which in turn adds tremendously to the stability of a society.

Look at India for example and the great strides they did over the last 30 years; their middle class now counts more than 250 million people, put in perspective, this is about the whole population of the Arab world! And what did they do to get to that stage? Primarily reform their education.

This is the thing that we must do too and now, there should be no delay in doing so. Scrap all rote learning and emphasize the sciences and maths and introduce specific courses in critical thinking. We must do this.

I think the majority of Bahrain already realise this, which is why students in private schools now number 27% of the student population and parents would not have bothered to pay exorbitant school fees if they did not believe that private education would prepare their children better for the future than local government schools would.

We need to revamp education and support the initiatives for its overhaul. Let’s concentrate on that and create the environment for it to flourish. We owe it to the future generations to bite the bullet and drastically reform the educational organisation, doing anything else will firmly close the windows of opportunity to future generations and our nation.

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Comments (11)

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  1. Munther says:

    Mahmood, I agree with you regarding revamping the education system, but revamping it is not the main solution ! making education, as a career more attractive to newly grads would improve it too ! You know new ideas, fresh blood and all ! Lately one of my mates told me about a video clip on a certain cheap music channel which in one way or another encourage the students to disrespect teachers and THAT’S a very dangerous thing ! Look at the newly advanced nations “India and China” teachers are highly respected while sadly in Bahrain especially, the teacher’s job is regarded unattractive disgraceful and only worthy of those who have either done poorly at uni or foreigners “who frankly don’t give a damn about their students” ! Before we talk about reforming the sector lets talk about ways of making our society respect this great job !

  2. Jay Jerome says:

    Looking at the full list of the report HERE these are the conclusions I derive:

    The nations at the top of the list have more democratic institutions, and less conservative religious influence than those at the bottom.

    Democracies encourage “critical thinking” – religious and secular oligarchies discourage it. Blind faith is an impediment to reason –.

    In other words, if you pray less, you’ll think more…

  3. Bahrainiac says:

    Hmm ……..Think more, pray less …. I wonder what Parliament would think of this novel approach?! :whistle:

  4. think about it, 2MB connection + threshold = 60 BD…
    flinstones were better :p

  5. Barry says:

    The problem with rote learning is, most of the time you really haven’t learned anything. Anyone can memorize something, and regurgitate it, but can they actually *use* it? There’s a trend among some American universitites which emphasizes application of what is learned, rather than repeating what is memorized. My specific university was focused on this. There was no way to get out of a class by just turning in papers and doing well on tests. All of them required some sort of project to prove that we actually had learned what was taught. I did so many presentations that at this point my viewpoint has gone from dread to “Crap, can we get this stuff over with already?!”

  6. Even the private schools (American, etc.) for families living overseas are, at best copies of bad schools from the home country. We sent our kids off to boarding school, for high school – where they had a somewhat regimented schedule, were taught how to study efficiently, used what they learned, respected their teachers and have gone on to attend some competitive universities. At the school they attended in the UAE they “hated” this teacher or that one; they were sick constantly (psychosomatic – sick of school). At boarding school, we heard, “I love” this teacher, “I love this class”. Students are not stupid – they know when teachers patronize them and their intelligence and when teachers respect them and their ideas. But, that being said, nothing can get accomplished if it doesn’t start from the top and therein lies the difficulty.

  7. Moclippa says:

    I agree with Munther on elevating the status of teachers. I’ve thought about it a lot before but it’s a relatively tough endeavor. I mean the government can help increase the image and net worth of teachers in both public and private schools through a series of reforms. But there also needs to be a grass roots sociological approach from the other end which I don’t see happening so easily. Media is often a mix of foreign/external companies, as are the radio and news. That means unless we convince those guys to do a better job at portraying teachers (not happening) or convince BTV to get off their collective asses and simply do a better job (period), then we are strictly limited to local events… which have limited scope and influence, but still should not entirely be discounted.

    At least from the governments perspective, I could see them raising the status of teachers in pay by, for example, raising pay grades in public schools based on years of service and teacher reviews. In general for both Public and Private teachers they can set standards for time served, around 5 years, which qualifies them for some sort of card that can either severely reduce port taxes on certain products or have government agree to subsidize other purchases. Aside from increasing their financial abilities (more money = more respect to the profession… sadly in this day and age), government can increase public school quality to higher standards, among many other things.

    This process of highly increasing teachers financial status, I think, would make Bahrain a more attractive market for foreign teachers to come into, mostly at the higher levels of education. I’d love to see the government put a lot of money into developing an educational sector, similar to Qatar, and moving into things like Stem Cell research and otherwise. Meaning that universities and companies from outside willing to research these things would likely donate resources to them in Bahrain, as well as teachers, all contributing to a better educational environment. Plus… having local scientific discoveries does a lot to boost moral.

    I know Mahmoud is going to hit me for saying this, but I still thing some sort of tax needs to be levied on citizens once they achieve a minimum pay grade (not businesses, unless they are illicits – tobacco or alcohol). This could help support things like education, as well as allow for revamps of the policing system, among many other things. Furthermore the tax is another way of almost pushing people more towards looking at the government as a structure that they pay into (and thus needs to be more responsive to their needs), rather then simply an overarching institution that is only semi-accountable through parliament.

  8. mahmood says:

    no hitting from me, it’s too early and I’m still in a good mood!

    I don’t think that taxation is the full answer. These societies are just too messed up I sometimes think to do anything other than “constructive chaos” to get them to realise that stopping living in the past and holding that as ideal is much more conducive to our future.

    Education is the same I think; we need to get the various ministries of education to realise that the Three-Rs are not conducive to modern learning and complete reform and realisation that preparing students for future environments by arming them with the right tools like the ability to creatively think, thinking critically and a good base in the sciences and maths and languages are of the utmost importance.

    That change in strategy will naturally mandate a change in the methods of teaching, which in turn will necessitate the retraining of teachers which allows for good natural selection; the bads and/or unsuited ones will naturally be sifted and those should never be allowed to use their influence to force their retention.

    In other words, this problem, like all the others we suffer from in the Arab world in general, will not be solved with topical application of ointments; what is needed is a comprehensive and interdependent change to a country’s strategy to be effective and that requires a strong and visionary political will to foster that change from all sectors of society.

    That political will, although present in some sectors of government, unfortunately doesn’t seem to be honestly supported throughout that infrastructure.

  9. doncox says:

    “encourage the students to disrespect teachers and THAT’S a very dangerous thing !”

    If the teachers are good, they will be respected. There is no point in the students respecting poor teachers. Respect has to be earned, by teachers or anyone else.

    There does seem to be an excessive amount of rote learning throughout the Middle East. However, you do have to learn some things off by heart. There have to be some facts in your brain to think with – even if after some hard thought, you realise that the facts are not so certain as they seemed.

    But more projects and fewer tests would help. However, projects have to be carefully designed nowadays so that they cannot be done by simply downloading and printing out stuff from the web.

  10. mahmood says:

    how true Don, especially when you hear of things like this:

    شجار بين مدرسين في ثانوية بالعاصمة
    الوسط – علي طريف
    نشب شجار بين مدرسين اثنين في مدرسة ثانوية بالعاصمة (المنامة)، وذلك بعد أن رفض المدرس الأول طلب المدرس الثاني استخدام الحاسب الآلي الموجود في الفصل. وتشير تفاصيل الحادثة إلى أن أحد المدرسين كان يعد برنامجاً على الحاسب الآلي في أحد الفصول، في الوقت الذي حضر فيه مدرس آخر يطلب من المدرس الأول ترك الجهاز لغرض استخدامه، إلا أن الأول رفض الامتثال لطلب زميله. بعد ذلك تحول الحديث بين الطرفين إلى مشادة كلامية حادة، انتهت إلى عراك بالأيدي دار بينهما، وعلى إثر تلك الواقعة تقدم المدرس الأول ببلاغ ضد الثاني في أحد مراكز الشرطة

    Briefly, two high-school teachers in Bahrain beat the shit out of each other because one wanted to use a computer another was already using. The one who was using th computer ultimately filed a complaint with the police against his colleague!

  11. docspencer says:

    Very good points in your original message here Mahmood. The region in general needs a high level institution, a university, that offers PhD programs and does world class research in some important areas. For example molecular engineering is very important for the future. This is just an example. Such an institution could be done in cooperation and participation with say MIT or Harvard in Boston, or several others in Europe. At this stage, this could be an example of an objective. Bahrain could be a good central location.

    Then on that basis of the objective upgrade secondary and primary education, so that its graduates are qualified to enter such an institution.

    The money is there in the royal families of the region to make this happen. The large US institutions are more than willing to cooperate and help.

    The above is just an example, but you as a region need something like that. The brain power you have plenty of. So the smart ones go to other countries to get educated, they get good jobs in higher level institutions and stay there. The above could also spawn high technology companies and reverse the existing brain drain.

    Just a thought.

    Vic

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