Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Muslim countries 'need unified approach to science' - SciDev.Net

Thanks to JK in the university research office for passing this along.

Muslim countries may gain by a 'unified approach to science':
Participants agreed that since OIC [Organization of the Islamic Conference] member countries have much in common — such as socioeconomic status and cultural traditions — they should also use a common strategy to solve problems related to science and technology.
But there is science, not Muslim science or Christian science. Science. Basic knowledge that can be used by anyone, anywhere.

And if you've lost your science tradition, your Al Andulus, there is a benefit of reaching across to those who recovered that science. The West.

There are those who believe that the glory days of the Muslim World can be restored by going back to a true Islam lost in the past. These folks tend to be fundamentalist. A small subset of this group are the terrorists. But nothing can be recovered by force or edict. True Islam is within today's Muslim community. It 'simply' needs to be drawn out and fostered.

Part of that fostering might even include scientific partnerships with universities in the west.

The Muslim world and the western world have much to learn from each other and about each other. Scientist to scientist relationships could probably bridge our alienation faster than a dozen East-West institutes. Knowledge transfer happen through human interaction.

And, yes, it requires investment: Atta-ur-Rahman, chair of the Network of Academies of Sciences in Islamic Countries and head of Pakistan's Higher Education Commission
that Muslim countries spend just 0.2 per cent of their gross domestic product on scientific research and development. Despite this gap, he hoped that Muslim countries would recognise the pivotal role of science and technology in their development and in programmes to eradicate poverty.
And, yes, introducing children at an early age to joys and risks of exploring for truth is vital:

Though the conference focused primarily on higher education and scientific research, it also discussed plans to launch a popular science magazine and improve science education for schoolchildren.

"Without lower education, there is no higher education," says Anwar Nasim, chair of Pakistan's National Commission on Biotechnology (NCB).

Nasim says it is important to popularise science in OIC countries, emphasising that socioeconomic prosperity would never be achieved unless these countries pay proper attention to their children's scientific education.

Nasim says a passion for science at a young age creates a more capable scientist, adding that Muslim countries should focus on understanding science rather than just memorising it.
Switching costs. One of the fundamental problems with many school systems in the Middle East is the emphasis on memorization and the crowding out of understanding. Many of our students arrive at university handicapped because they've never before been encouraged to approach learning any other way. Our job is to move them out of their comfort zone of memorization. The students find the switching costs high, and at least they imagine they are high.

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