Commenting on pressure form the United States on Saudi Arabia since Sept. 11 to reform its educational system, Sultan Al Saud, the Saudi Crown Prince told the Saudi TV on 16 Sept. 2005, “America and the rest of the infidel world should go to hell. We are not going to change our education system which is based on the best religion of the world. We are proud of being Muslims and having an Islamic education system.”
Both the Al Saudi clan which has ruled over Saudi Arabia since its foundation in the 1940s and the religious establishment dominated by Wahabbism (a kind of radical, fanatic, simplistic interpretation of Islam) have used dogmatic Islam to enforce their regime and run the country.
At Saudi schools and universities, words like “alcohol, pigs, and prostitutes” are none existent in English language books. The “evolution theory” is not mentioned or taught at all. “Jewish people” in all books and levels are condemned as “enemies of Allah”. The Western world is presented as “decadent”, “corrupt”, and “atheist”.
In addition to an archaic education system which lacks critical thinking and research, more than 60 million Arab adults remain illiterate, including 55% of all Arab women.
In almost all Arab schools and universities, students are not allowed to question what they are taught. They are expected to accept everything they read and hear from their teachers and memorize to a great extent what they are taught. Critical thinking is penalized and students are patronized. In fact, the Arab regimes have rejected Western methods of education such as critical thinking and liberal thought. They fear that these methods could spawn critics who would question the existence of the ruling regimes.
Students face other constraints. There are little, if any, extra-curricular activities, nothing to exercise their fine motor skills or hand and eye coordination. Classrooms are poorly-equipped and dull.
Private schools and universities are by and large not much better off. Graham Collins who used to work as course coordinator at the Gulf University for Science and Education (GUST) in Kuwait told me, “GUST is supposed to follow the curriculum of Missouri University. But it does not. The owners of this university replicate the same curricula and teaching methods used by traditional Arab universities. The whole thing is a farce. The façade is American but the content is very Arab. GUST and other local universities are degraded to diploma mills.”
Parroting what they were taught in Arab schools? And they have their own Ministry now!
A despotic education system coupled with dogmatic religious teaching in all Arab countries have produced passive learners, simply parrots. The majority of university graduates are appointed as teachers who follow in the steps of their former teachers. The Arab education system is moving in a vicious circle.
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