August 23, 2005
Sheikhing up UAE education
The UAE's education minister, Sheikh Nayhan bin Mubarak al Nahyan, is planning a massive overhaul of the country's education system. He has been highly critical of the current system: "Exam papers are poor and do not evaluate students' achievement. The entire teaching and evaluation systems are appalling. They allow every student to pass whether he or she studied or not."
UAE blogger Sandsoftime relates her own experience of the country's public education, and why radical reform is desperately needed:
"I had the unfortunate pleasure of going through the public education system here. I am not exaggerating when I say that I still mourn the wasted years of my youth spent in the hell hole that was my school. List of things wrong with school: Poorly paid idiotic teachers typically from Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, Syria, Somalia, etc. A curriculum that you can pass by just memorizing your way through, poorly written text books, crumbling infrastructure (On a side note, I visited my school a few months ago. The desk I used to sit in when I was 10 years old is STILL there more than 15 years later), widespread bullying. In other words, the entire system is designed to kill off whatever latent creativity the students may have. Those who succeed after graduating do so DESPITE their schooling and not because of it.
"Why is our education system such a mess? Because like everything else, we imported it during the 70's. We however made the dumb mistake of basing ours on the Egyptian system and other Arabic systems which themselves are based on the Ottoman System. The Ottoman system was designed around creating subservient civil servants and soldiers out of its population. Have you ever wondered why much of the Arab world is dysfunctional? Because it goes hand in hand with an equally dysfunctional education system.
"This is why national parents prefer to spend the expense on sending thier kids to International Schools here in the UAE. Despite being very expensive, the International schools here are actually pretty good and do an excellent job of preparing the students for their future. One of the side effects is the kids don't have a strong command of Arabic as thier parents, something which has become prevalent among the children of well-to do nationals.
"Our public education system needs to be demolished and rebuilt from scratch. You cannot reform a system that was built on perpetuating repression."
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Thanks for this post. The system in Egypt is like this and unfortunately, I can't afford international and both my kids are stuck with it. I would like to see a widespread Arab-league-wide huge reform of all the education systems in the Middle East, as their weak points seem to be pretty similar - but where would the cash come from. What I don't get, actually, is why a relatively rich country like the UAE is stuck with this mess. i know in Egypt there is a huge population problem and not enough money and the school reform needed to really change things would cost a fortune taht Egypt does not have, but what's with wealthy Gulf countries not changing their systems? Their kids will suffer for that, and the entire Arab world is suffering already from a disaffected and disproportionately large youth population that was undereducated and set adrift.
Posted by: Anna in Cairo at August 29, 2005 07:02 AM
I did not mention that my kids are taking national curriculum although they are in a private "language school" - I should say I am grateful for the fact they are not in public school (they are not schools, they are holding pens).
Posted by: Anna in Cairo at August 29, 2005 07:03 AM