We need to aim at quality in education
Yesterday I read a news item about the setting up of a private university in Cairo. The university to be financed by the National Commercial Bank, the Kuwaiti Development Bank and Dr. Mohd. Abdo Yamani, in addition to a number of Egyptian businessmen. The university of California will provide the expertise for the project.
The university which will serve all Middle Eastern countries will offer courses in environmental science, desert construction, science and technology and engineering subjects in addition to international business and economics. Its graduates will attain the level of education and competence to work anywhere in the world. All subjects will be taught in English.
To me this was the best piece of news in months.
The Arab world needs a university which can make young people ready to face the challenges of an ever-changing and fiercely competitive world.
There are many universities in the Arab world. But sad to say the standard of education has gone down. Many reasons can be attributed to this among them the handling of education to bureaucrats who are more prone to publish statistics on quantity rather than focusing on quality education.
Education is the key to survival. And scientific education should be given top priority.
It is good to have graduates, in history and geography but it is very important to have people who study life sciences that are crucial to our survival.
In Japan they have a subject called futurism. But the way they don't teach astrology but try to reach and come up with ideas and concepts that will prepare people for the future. In the West new subjects have been added. They include the environment, health and mental care. Evolution of the curriculum is taking place so that it keeps abreast of the changes in the socio-economic structure of society.
This is what we lack in the Arab world.
I doubt if any changes have occurred in our curriculum. In addition to this, the parrot like absorption of knowledge in the school years does little to widen the students horizons when they enter a university. The student learns to read and write but he cannot think. Once the thought process is stifled the quest for further knowledge is destroyed.
It therefore becomes a vicious cycle. A fourth rate school education turns out fourth rate students. Even those who are bright get frustrated. I have met many university graduates who have never read a book other than that prescribed by the University. No extra reading means limited knowledge. Again the lack of books is another dilemma for those who want to add a wider dimension to their existing knowledge. Lack of book shops and those nameless faceless censors add a crucial blow to the knowledge seeker. Only last week in London I bought fifteen books on various topics on the Arab world. These books in no way are critical or damaging but I doubt if they would even be in the library of an Arab university. More so out of ignorance and paranoia. Now a days you can get encyclopedias on disks. However, that is not the point. The Arab world which in the past had seats of learning in Cairo, Baghdad, Damascus and in Cordova in Arab Spain, lacks institutions of higher learning where men and women can use their God given talent to work and research for future progress.
It is in the light of this that the university is a welcome project and thanks must be given to all those who contributed and will contribute to its upkeep and maintenance. The subjects to be taught are live and are the need of the hour. It is hoped also that admission not be given except to those who are serious. Strict discipline should be maintained by both students and academics. The National Commercial Bank should be commended for its participation in this project and others should take a leaf from their note book.
Dr. Mohd. Abdo Yamani himself is a man who needs no introduction. His selfless devotion to the causes of the Ummah in various fields should give all satisfaction that this project will succeed. However, euphoria should not cloud our vision and goal.
Only yesterday the Gulf University was in dire straits due to lack of funding. We should learn from past experience and see to it that it is our duty that this project succeed. That will be our contribution to society.