WENR, January/February 2004: Middle East
Pan-Arab Education Reform
At a recent summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a body that links six oil-rich Arab monarchies, Saudi Arabia’s rulers joined in a common pledge to reform religious education across the region.
The Shura Council — the Saudi Parliament whose members are appointed by the king — has passed an education bill that explicitly calls for new emphasis on moderation in religion classes. A 70-strong group of academics and reformers has been appointed to debate reform and suggest remedies. At the last session, the group presented a paper detailing how textbooks inculcate values that conflict with both the modern age and the spirit of Islam. As a result, some textbooks have already been removed from classrooms. The national dialogue calls for further revision of the curriculum to promote the values of tolerance and moderation. But purging textbooks of all incitement will be hard.
Across the region, Islamist hardliners are interpreting change as part of a U.S.-inspired plot to destroy Islam. A review of Kuwait’s religious curriculum has been met by heated protest from fundamentalist parliamentarians. In Jordan, members of Parliament have decried new textbooks that describe suicide attacks on civilians as a form of terrorism. The current tussle over education coincides with a wave of popular anti-Americanism that boosts the appeal of extremist xenophobia. For these reasons, backers of educational reform have been careful to stress that change is needed for reasons other than to placate non-Muslims.
Jan. 24, 2004
Manama Awaits New University
A new private university in Bahrain, specializing in information technology and business, is set to open this month. With the establishment of its Manama campus, Kingdom University will be one step nearer to the completion of Phase 1, according to the adviser to the board of trustees, Yousef Abdul Ghaffar. The campus, in the Zinj area, can accommodate 500 students. In December, Ghaffar said work on a second campus, in Hamad Town, was to begin in January.
The university will offer bachelor’s and master’s programs in business administration, information technology, finance and computer science.
Dec. 12, 2003
Moldovan University Latest Institution Embroiled in Degree Forgery
Dozens of teachers, principals, psychologists, administrators and social workers from northern Israel are suspected of having knowingly purchased forged master’s and doctoral degrees, purportedly from Ion Creanga Pedagogical University in Moldova. According to police, the university says it has never enrolled any Israeli students and has never opened a branch in Israel.
The fraud squad began investigating the situation several months ago in response to a complaint by the Civil Service Commission. The commission said several government ministries, including the Education and Health ministries, had noticed a surprising stream of diplomas from Ion Creanga University submitted by employees who were either requesting wage increases on the strength of these documents or using them to support an application for promotion. Police questioned dozens of people holding Ion Creanga diplomas. According to Superintendent Herbie Primat, commander of the Northern District Fraud Squad, several of them admitted to having bought the diplomas for US$2,000 to $10,000, depending on the degree and the subject. He said the fraud went on for approximately two years, from 2001 through 2002.
The investigation comes on the heels of a similar investigation into the validity of degrees of about 5,500 government employees suspected of having fictitious diplomas from the Israeli extension of British University of Humberside, the University of Latvia and American Burlington Academy (see Sept/Oct WENR 2003).
Jan. 19, 2004
Textbooks, Curriculum to Be Revised
Kuwait has decided to revise textbooks and the school curriculum to promote religious tolerance, government officials announced in January. Parliament had been debating the changes announced by Education Minister Rasheed Al Hamad, who said such issues as terrorism had come under scrutiny in the latest selection of new textbooks. Though the minister defended the existing curriculum, he said some pupils could be led astray by the tone and content of some texts. “[Books] should not encourage pupils to hate other people and religions,” Al Hamad said told a Kuwaiti newspaper.
Parliament began debating the revisions after a group of Islamic lawmakers voiced their opposition to the proposed changes. Al Hamad responded by denouncing anyone who sought to “make the young generation think in a fanatic way, which leads them to take aggressive initiatives.” Earlier in January, the Gulf Cooperation Council agreed on educational reform as a way to combat religious extremism among Muslims.
United Press International
Jan. 2, 2004