Scope for standard higher education in Arab world! (II)
-Dr. Abdul Ruff
Educational level of a nation generally indicates the level of rise of human thought and the ability to articulate well to the world.
Success of higher educational policy depends mainly on the vision of the government, educational administrators and policy makers themselves. Not only that. It also depends on those who impart education and guide the researchers.
The answer to this question would determine if a given higher educational institution is indeed serious about education: Are the teachers really qualified to teach university course and guide purposeful research?
That is to say, the government, university administrators, and teachers-researchers have to on the same page in terms of the aims and objectives of higher education they have in mind. As you all now, without the necessary seriousness and commitment, nothing tangible can be achieved in anything but in the field of higher education that could prove disastrous for the nation and educational practices. That would end up in rotten education of the youth and very weak research work as students and teachers do the work as a mere formality with no commitment.
Despite recent political tensions in the Mideast region, the Arab world is continuing to witness rising higher education enrollment rates, due to its excellent climate and growing presence of world-class universities, some home-grown and some international.
It is universally accepted fact that higher education is necessary for encouraging establishing regional quality assurance networks to help promoting higher education in the region; for building capacities for education quality assurance systems; for developing action plans on quality assurance of higher education institutions and for enhancing international cooperation in fields of Higher education quality assurance.
Higher education includes teaching, research, exacting applied work (e.g. in medical and dental colleges), and social services activities of universities. Often delivered at universities, academies, colleges, general institutes and institutes of science and technology, higher education is also available through certain college-level institutions Within the realm of teaching, it includes both the undergraduate level, and beyond that, graduate-level. Here the focus is on post degree courses, like PG, M Phil, PhD level courses and research work through proper methodology.
Higher education in the West Asian region has grown dramatically and has experienced many changes, since its beginnings in the colonial period, and especially since the middle of the twentieth century. Though significant differences exist between higher education sectors in each country of the Arab world, some general trends are evident, including navigating the forces of globalization and attempts to increase access and gender equality. Despite significant changes, Arab universities continue to receive relatively poor evaluations from the major global university-ranking systems.
A university, which symbolizes higher education at the highest level, stands for high ideals, values and standards of highest level. Indian government has failed in its duty as the mentor cum financial sponsor of Nalanda University.
Considering the fast tempo of globalization, analysis focus and communication, Arab universities in this region need to place greater focus on increasing specialization in fields of study to respond to marketplace needs.
The Arab world is home to one of the oldest universities in the world, Al-Azhar University, established in the tenth century C.E. in Cairo. Initially founded as a center for men to study Islamic law and theology, Al-Azhar now offers many academic disciplines to both male and female students.
In recent years, member states of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have been debating the application of the General Agreement on Trades in Services (GATS) to the field of higher education. This free-trade policy affects the status of non-national education providers, including the recognition of degrees earned from such institutions, and has implications on access to and quality of education, economic development and innovation.
The Arab States of the Persian Gulf – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates – have embraced the Western model of higher education perhaps more than any other Arab country. In countries such as Qatar and UAE, this embrace is reflected by a multitude of foreign branch campuses, particularly in Education City in Qatar, and Dubai Academic City. Roughly one-third of all international branch campuses are located in the Arab world, with the vast majority in the Persian Gulf region – and especially in Qatar and UAE. One reason for the growth of foreign branch campuses is Arab leaders’ willingness and ability to invest large amounts of money in the projects.
Higher learning is deeply rooted in the history and societies of the Arab Middle East. After the seventh century and the Islamization of the Arab world, local religious schools known as madrasa became the main institutions of higher learning in the Middle East. They established and disseminated educational standards that are still applied in present-day universities, such as the separation of master’s from doctorate programs, tenure, and protections for academic freedom.
The Ottomans, who ruled the Arab world throughout this period, strove as early as the eighteenth century to get their Empire back into the academic game. In 1720, the Sultan Ahmed III sent delegations of scholars to Europe in order to obtain translations of Western scientific books. This pattern reached its peak during the reign of Mohamed Ali (r. 1805–49), when dozens of modern institutions of higher learning were established on the European model, mainly in Egypt.
Until 1953, only 13 public and private universities were established in the Arab World. Most existing private universities were very old and mostly foreign. For example, in Lebanon there were three pioneering institutions, namely the American university in Beirut in 1866, Saint Joseph University in 1875 and the Lebanese University in 1951. At present, there are more than 200 private universities in the Arab World. This represents 45% of the total number of Arab universities.
The Arab world today faces a host of hurdles when it comes to higher education and scientific research including a lack of clear focus in research priorities and strategies, insufficient time and funding to meet research goals, low awareness of the importance and impact of good scientific research, inadequate networking opportunities and databases, limited international collaborative efforts, efforts, and of course, course, the brain-drain.
As a result of Globalization, competitiveness and accelerating expansion of private Higher Education, it is vital to take several actions such as: to establish national quality assurance frameworks and to develop current established ones in order to guarantee the quality of education and control its outcomes. to develop, enhance and review current internal quality management systems.
Arab’s expenditures on scientific research are about 0.2-0.4% of the national income GDP, while it is around 4-6% in and industrialized developed countries. The number of researchers per million inhabitants is 450 in the Arab Countries, whereas in the developed countries the number is 5000 per million inhabitants.
Arab governments have now realized the importance of higher education to create really well informed societies in the Mideast even as anti-Islamic forces focusing on energy resources and oil routes in and around the Mideast have destabilized some Arab nations, killing millions of Muslims.
Arab leaders when in unison truly believe in the power of education and the role it plays in their countries’ development and progress. The UAE has more than 107 universities, of which 37 are international campuses. Qatar has 11, Bahrain three and Saudi Arabia one international campus.
Research is undertaken by the students just as a tool for jobs and guides simple help them to finish the research quickly and search for jobs elsewhere if the parent institution has nothing to offer in terms of jobs along with degrees.
However, if jobs are made available only for the serious researchers with pointed interest in research projects, perhaps the universities and institutes would perhaps attempt to produce researchers with good research contents.
Even a standard university can stagnate if the departments, as the policy, employ only local products as teachers. Such awful scenario is visible in Indian universities.
Such an environment creates a hopeless educational situation where no standard teaching and qualified guidance are considered as assets. This environment is harmful to the learners, teachers, researchers, universities and nation itself.
In many developed countries, a high proportion of the population (up to 50%), now enter higher education at some time in their lives. Higher education is therefore very important to national economies, both as a significant industry in its own right and as a source of trained and educated personnel for the rest of the economy. College educated workers command a significant wage premium and are much less likely to become unemployed than less educated workers.
Higher education in some countries, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Ireland, specifically refers to post-secondary institutions that offer Associate’s degrees, Bachelor’s degrees, Master’s degrees, Education Specialist (Ed.S.) degrees or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees, or their equivalents, and also higher professional degrees in areas such as dentistry, law, medicine, optometry, pharmacology and veterinary medicine.
Indian government as part of revival of heritage of ancient India decided to establish Nalanda University in Bihar and appointed a distinguished scholar and Nobel laureate Dr. Sen who lived in USA as the first Chancellor to start the institution. However even after 5 years of its existence the Nalanda University has not really begun the educational world in its earnest.
It is known that research is an essential component of tertiary education and allows the local universities to develop further into world-class institutions.
Qatar tops the Arab nations in allocation of huge funds for higher education -related construction projects as it specifically allocated $7.2bn to the sector in 2014, while a total of $90bn was predicted to have been spent by the GCC on such construction projects for promoting the possible avenues for higher education.
What is amazing and incredible is that the women making up 60% of Arab world’s tertiary education enrolments in 2012, the outcome of the strong commitment of Gulf governments to promote and provide equal opportunities for education to all cannot be underestimated.
However, Arab higher educational institutions have not yet approached the research field with the needy stress and the managers of universities just consider the research as an extension of post graduation and as such research suffers from quality it requires for maintaining standards for future generations.
The right of access to higher education is mentioned in a number of international human rights instruments. The UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966 declares, in Article 13, that higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education.
Quality research denotes the real standards of the institution. Administrators of higher educational institutions in Arab world, therefore, need to undertake several important steps for the considerable improvement of research projects and thrust areas so that the higher education sector in Arab world maintains its strength moving forward.
A university without proper focus on very contemporary problems, themes, disciplines would not succeed in promoting higher education with proper thrust. Arab universities need to start introducing specific courses, and then move towards creating majors and schools or centres for entrepreneurship coupled with innovation.
A critical priority is increased state funding for promoting the growth of the research sector, both in terms of increasing funding in addition to monitoring the quality of work produced. High quality research guides and project directors are a must for genuinely quality research and education.
A national funding agency based on credible proposals for long as well as short terms would go a long way towards improving the research capabilities of Arab universities and at the same time bolster innovation and commercialization with the help of both government and business sectors.
While, the government needs to ensure fining the highly qualified person to handle higher educational institutions, the heads of the institution must ensure high quality education and research by appointing highly equipped teachers and researchers to the faculty and, if possible, core staff. Not enough. The teachers and staff must be motivated to provide do quality education, including standard research.
The importance now being attached to higher education in Arab nations is a welcome move and if promoted with ever increasing funding with responsibility attack he dot the institution would go a long way in making the Arab world educationally and culturally strong in the years to come.