04 February 2008

Arab World Still Lagging in Education, Literacy

Although western influences are bringing better educational opportunities to young Arab females and males, rigid traditions in the area prevent many among the Arab youth bulge demographic from benefiting.
"It's a very youthful region - 60% of the region's population is under 30 years of age, close to 100m new jobs will need to be created over the next 10 to 15 years in the Arab World," he explained..."If we are to create such jobs, then we have to start with education."__BBC

As the youth demographic in the Arab world explodes, little seems to be done to help this rising tide of largely illiterate youth prepare for the changing world outside of insular Arab society.
"There is a pressing need within the region to redirect educational approaches across all stages and all forms to educate students on how to think and not what to think," Marwan Musher, a World Bank senior vice president, said at the launch.

"Education systems do not support adequately the development by girls and boys of analytical skills, problem-solving skills, critical thinking and innovation," he said.___Source

While there always seem to be enough funds to sponsor fanatical Wahabi madrasas--training jihadis and suicide bombers--there is little attention given to helping youth prepare for real world employment. Illiteracy remains a huge problem for Arabs.
The number of illiterate people in the Arab world has reached 99.5 million, accounting for 29.7 percent of the whole population, the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALECSO) said Monday.

Among these, 75 million people are aged between 15 and 45, the Tunis-based ALECSO said in a statement....The sharp increase of illiterate people will pose a severe threat to the social development of Arab nations, said the statement. ____Source

Of course, if parents intend for their children to live only long enough to fight and die, or to blow themselves up, perhaps the constricted viewpoint toward their future makes sense. Multiculturalists will tell us that we should not judge another culture.

Once, Arab science was supposed to have enjoyed a "golden age." Between the 8th and 11th centuries CE, the ancient wisdom of the west (Greece) met the ancient and more recent wisdom of the east (India, Persia, China) in Arab cities such as Baghdad.
But many of the early scholars were not Muslims either. Instead, what unified Muslims, Christians and Jews, Arabs and Persians, was the Arabic language. It would remain the international language of science for 700 hundred years.

The point is that there is no such thing as 'Islamic science' or 'Muslim science', as it is often portrayed both in the West and the Muslim world today. Science cannot be characterised by the religion of those who engage in it.___Source

Baghdad, Damascus, and other Arab cities were in the right place at the right time to absorb the ancient knowledge, and to contribute to the ongoing development of certain branches of science and mathematics.

When Islam grew intolerant again--as it does periodically--the "golden age" turned to dross, and discovery in science and math moved on to more open and promising societies. It has never looked back since.

Arab lands were once rich in "market dominant minorities." As long as those minorities were tolerated, Arab lands prospered. When Islam grew too intolerant for the tiniest glimpse of outside thought, Arab lands went into decline--and stayed there.

Current "oil wealth" in Arab countries exists due to development by outsiders and continued maintenance of production by outsiders.

The counter-productive attitudes toward hard work that bedevil many minority communities in western countries, are even more widespread within Arab communities. Whether hard mental work, or hard physical work, the general attitude is to avoid it. Given that mental set, educational reformers have their work cut out for them.

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Blogger Audacious Epigone said...

You might be interested in The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China and the West by historian Toby E. Huff. Re: Arab science, he basically argues that there was really never such a thing. Rather the Arab Golden Age (in mathemathics and astronomy more than anything else) was the result of what you lay out in the post and that the decline followed a corresponding ascension of Islam, especially the rise of the madrasses and primary focus then given to law (sharia law that is).

Whereas Western giants like Newton saw scientific inquiry as a way of honoring God through appreciation and discovery, Islam was inherently antagonistic toward virtually all kinds of scientfic inquiry.

Tuesday, 05 February, 2008  
Blogger Snake Oil Baron said...

I noticed this article on Arab states' fertility rates recently. It is based on a UN agency report. I would normally suspect any UN report of underplaying any info that would raise concerns about the demographics of Islamic states but they also have a record of overstating population numbers to support their "falling sky" perspective on the environment. For what it is worth, I have heard the same suggestion (that Islamic states are experiencing fast declines in fertility rates) from other sources.

It would be interesting to see what the rate of change in Arab and Islamic literacy rates is rather than the just current rates. And while the absolute numbers of illiterate people is of importance for some issues, the percentage is more interesting when looking at where the fertility rate of the population will go.

I understand that North African states have lower birth rates than sub-Saharan nations and that many of the more educated and mobile sub-Saharan migrants see North Africa as either a primary destination or at least a good second choice if they fail to get across the Mediterranean. Many of the "Eurabian" forecasts seem to assume continuing supplies of immigrants from Arab nations (if Arab nations find their population aging and sub-Saharan immigrants coming in they may try to turn off their outflow) and that the third and forth generations of Arab immigrants to Europe will continue to have fertility rates that are higher than both native and non-Arab immigrants combined with the inflow of new non-Arab immigrants.

One thing I feel is certain, literacy rates need to be brought up to prevent demographic pressures. The West and Asian nations (India especially) can assist that by producing free educational resources that are tailored to the needs of developing nations and providing content like the recent effort to translate the Western Cannon into Arabic so that the newly literate have something to read when trying to understand Western culture besides what the Mullahs, Imams and Hollywood celebrities might shovel upon them. To be fair, I seem to recall that the Western Cannon project is being undertaken by one or more Gulf nations but I suspect that much of the rest of the effort will need to be shouldered by Western nations. Since many nations in the Arab and Islamic world are still sending a lot of money to "Islamic charities" that buy explosives. We (I am thinking on non governmental entities like charities and such - not governments) could heir resident North Africans and Middle Eastern people to translate and produce secular educational resources and make them freely available. In addition to working to prevent over population it would also support the local publishing industry and improve employment opportunities in the Arab world.

Tuesday, 05 February, 2008  
Blogger Snake Oil Baron said...

Normally I would not begrudge a culture which was open to adopting and spreading the ideas of other cultures since doing this has caused at least as much human development as has actual innovation but the way that Islamic revisionists have claimed credit for such innovations while dismantling the systems which allow such innovation is worthy of the criticism.

Tuesday, 05 February, 2008  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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