Monday, May 29, 2006

Gulf states: educational reform's real goals :: Arab Reform Bulletin

Ebtisam Al Kitbi (UAE University) writes:
Among the most important changes in the Gulf is increasing reliance on the English language at the university level, despite the fact that English language instruction in elementary and secondary public schools in the region remains weak. The decision to change the language of instruction in the social sciences and humanities to English, although many students lack the required proficiency, has profound implications for education.

It is difficult for students to engage enthusiastically in the detailed discussion required to understand the sophisticated concepts, theories, and debates in the humanities and social sciences when it is clear to them that their English language skills are not up to the task.
. . .
The increasing reliance on English is an example of the sort of proposed changes in educational systems that serve foreign interests more than they serve the societies of the Gulf. The insistence of foreign powers on a change in the educational philosophy in the Arab Gulf region comes within the context of the control and suppression of university youth so that their world view in the future will be compatible with and serve the interests of those powers. . . . Altering the role of higher education neutralizes university students and prevents them from being an effective force for change.
I'm skeptical that English was made the language of learning in universities so as to control and suppress university students. Or that this format of instruction is imposed or insisted upon by foreigners. Very skeptical.

I do believe, however, that it is appropriate to question whether the language of instruction ought to be English. Part of the answer would have to consider what are the barriers to providing a quality university education in Arabic.

Although students have limited options to pursue university level education in Arabic they do have the choice of different university formats including the American style of university education. Many students opt for this format. Why? And why do employers find graduates from American-style universities attractive? (Given that the American style of university education is thriving in the Gulf also leads me to wonder if the paucity of Arab-language universities is a matter of student/parent preference rather a format that is imposed by providers (let alone imposed by foreign powers).)

I believe that the American-style education is one of many styles that work. I do not claim the American system is superior. However, I do believe that any education system is transformative, that is it changes the person's attitudes, beliefs and world view; it does not merely transfer knowledge or build skills. Cultural DNA is transmitted. I often wonder if the Gulf States are aware that the education systems they allow to operate within their borders are likely to change native culture in unexpected if not undesirable ways.

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Blogger uae alias said...

I can't agree more, but gulf countries and especially UAE are having a tranformational phase in thier educational systems... I'm saying so because Im a fresh graduate who is a UAE local... i studies in the govermental schools and be comparing what i used to study with what is being taught now and the the way of teaching are making me admitting that there is a serious move in this way...lately...Im a grad of UAEU, and i can tell u there is very much a diff of the way of teaching when btween the situation b4 i came into the Uni and now... me and my folk colleges have recieved no serious english courses... but i have to tell u that education isn't only depending on the education system but also by the society... and i admitt that our kids are kinda spoiled and careless all they care about are grades and passing... so i think we have more changes to do but I'm sure that we are walking on the right track so far.

7:11 AM  

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