WENR, April 2010: Middle East

World Bank Offers Bleak Assessment of Education in the Arab World

According to a recent report from the World Bank, the quality of education in the Arab world is falling behind other regions and needs urgent reform if it is to tackle unemployment and boost economic development.

The report, “The Road Not Travelled [1],” said that although education was becoming more accessible and the gender gap was being reduced, the region had not witnessed the positive changes seen in Asia and Latin America, particularly in literacy rates and enrollments in secondary schools and universities. The report concluded that Jordan and Kuwait were the top educational reformers in the region, while Djibouti, Yemen, Iraq and Morocco ranked lowest in terms of access, efficiency and quality of education.

The report said unemployment in the Arab world averaged 14 percent, which is higher than other areas in the world, except Sub-Saharan Africa, with the Palestinian territories coming highest with nearly 26 percent.

World Bank [1]
April 2, 2010


All Ph.D. Programs in Kurdish Iraq to Require Overseas Study

Education officials in the northern Kurdish region of Iraq are transforming their education sector with a number of radical reforms, one of which requires all Ph.D. candidates, from March of this year, to spend at least a year abroad on joint supervision programs.

Professor Dlawer Al’aldeen, Higher Education Minister in the Kurdish region, said his government was attempting to review every aspect of the education system and subject it to radical change. With regard to the doctoral reform, he said, “we want every Ph.D. to be of an international standard but awarded locally.”

University management structures are also being changed, with every university in the Kurdish region being made independent – ending the system of prime ministers appointing university presidents – and self-governing. Controversially, five big colleges for pharmacy and dentistry have been closed for quality reasons: “It led to a major crisis but we survived it and now everybody knows it is quality that dictates, not politics,” Al’aldeen said.

A central accreditation authority has been established to ensure compliance with international standards of quality. The performance of university staff is to be assessed and pay and promotion will be linked to performance.

Funding for overseas study, which in Iraq more broadly includes a scholarship program to send 10,000 university students abroad over the next five years, is receiving international support primarily from the United Kingdom and the United States through the UK’s Department for International Development and the State Department’s USAID. The UK department is investing £3 million (US$4.5 million) in partnerships with UK and other countries’ institutions under the Development Partnerships in Higher Education scheme, which was set up to strengthen the capacity of higher education institutions to contribute to the Millennium Development Goals. Up to 29 UK universities that comprise the British Universities Iraq Consortium [2] may be involved. A parallel scheme, the Rawabit (Partnership) Initiative, also funded by the department, supports student partnerships and capacity building links to support the development of technical and vocational education and training in Iraq.

University World News [3]
April 4, 2010


Centers to be Created in Brain-Drain Mitigation Effort

Israel’s government has approved a plan to create a series of research centers at universities — with a budget of more than US$300 million — to try to lure back scholars who have left the country for positions elsewhere. According to Haaretz, the issue of brain drain has been attracting a great deal of attention in Israel, with fears that many top academics are or have moved to the United States. Eventually, 30 research centers will be created. Two of the first centers are expected to focus on economics and on computer science.

According to Professor Shimon Yankielowicz, a member of Israel’s Council for Higher Education’s planning and budgeting committee, the number of Israeli scientists in leading research institutions in America is a quarter of the number in Israeli research universities. Israel has 5,000 scientists in its research universities and more than 1,200 in US research institutions.

Haaretz [4]
March 13, 2010

Saudi Arabia

200,000 New Education Sector Jobs Within 20 Years

More than 200,000 new jobs will be created in Saudi Arabia’s education sector as part of a 20-year employment strategy unveiled by King Abdullah in a keynote speech at the opening of this year’s sessions of the consultative Shoura Council. King Abdullah highlighted the government’s efforts to promote education and announced that SR137 billion (US$36.5 billion) of a total national budget of SR540 billion ($144 billion) would be devoted to education.

Arabian Business [5]
March 8, 2010

United Arab Emirates

Parents Sending Children to Private High School Abroad as Fees Domestically Skyrocket

Parents based in the UAE are considering British boarding schools over local private schools as tuition fees continue to head skyward in the UAE, according to Sue Anderson Consultants (SAC), a firm that works with overseas families to place pupils in UK schools.

“The schools are good [in the UAE] but they get full. There is the issue of waiting lists. And the prices definitely play a role,” an official said, speaking on the sidelines of an education event in Dubai.

Fees at private schools in the UAE often rise as much as 30 percent year-on-year, which makes tuition at a number of top-tier UAE day schools more expensive than those at all-inclusive British boarding schools. SAC placed nearly 70 children from UAE-based families in UK schools last year, a 20 percent increase on the previous year’s placements, and anticipates a further increase this year.

The firm saw a surge in applications in the wake of the first set of results from Dubai Schools Inspections Bureau, which saw more than a third of private schools in the emirate graded as ‘acceptable’ or ‘unsatisfactory’.

According to the latest figures from the Independent Schools Council [6], a body that represents 1,256 private schools across the UK, there has been a two percent rise in the number of pupils that have parents based in the Middle East.

Arabian Business [7]
March 2, 2010

Foreign Universities In It for the Money

Foreign universities are setting up in the United Arab Emirates in search of profits at the expense of students’ education, the chancellor of Abu Dhabi University [8] said in March amid growing concerns over standards. Nabil Ibrahim described the quality of foreign universities operating in the Gulf state as “very low” and urged that all educational institutions be brought under a single regulator.

“I have seen so many universities with great names abroad, but when they come here their quality of education is very low,” Ibrahim told Maktoob News on the sidelines of a conference. “It [education] is not a business venture. This is about the future of a generation…How can you let universities [operate] that are mainly here for the profit?”

Abu Dhabi University is one of the largest institutions in the UAE with more than 4,000 students representing over 35 different nationalities. The number of foreign universities opening branches in Dubai and other cities in the Gulf has soared over the last few years in response to rising demand for higher education. But the rapid growth has raised questions over the motives for setting up in the region.

In the UAE, foreign universities can set up branches in free zones that are governed by separate bodies and do not have to meet standards set by the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research [9].

Typically free zone branches are licensed if they can show educational standards meet those of their home campuses, but some have found to be lacking. The University Quality Assurance International Board (Uqaib), which oversees foreign university branches based in free zones in Dubai, said in January several branches were in danger of having their licenses revoked for failing to meet standards.

Maktoob [10]
March 16, 2010

Half of all Tertiary Students in Dubai Enrolled in Business Programs

Dubai’s institutions of higher education introduced 112 new programs in 2009-2010, and business-related programs continue to dominate, enrolling half of all students in higher education. According to figures from the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, of the 38,098 students studying in 53 higher education institutes in the emirate, 18,989 are enrolled in business, management and marketing programs. The next most popular choices are programs in society, religion and law, enrolling 5,819 students in 2009. Agriculture and natural and physical science enroll only 0.1 percent, or 197 students.

Dr Jihad Nader, Provost and Chief Academic Officer at the American University of Dubai [11], which has registered 14 new programs since September, said that though the academic scene is maturing with diversified offerings by universities, students’ needs are still market driven. “Dubai is a financial center, and in this day and age, everything is a business,” Dr Nader says.

Khaleej Times [12]
March 30, 2010