With all of the economic diversification and vitality in many Gulf Coast countries today, what about education?
How do these nations prepare children for roles in a new global business world or for positions in a modernized national economy that's growing away from traditional oil and other sectors?
This summer, publishing and education company Pearson came out with a new guidance document titled "The Problem Solvers," written by Charlie Leadbeater, that cites four key principles in helping to reshape education in the Middle East.
The first principle, knowledge, starts out with basic literacy skills and arithmetic skills, with an additional focus on higher-order concepts. The second, personal growth, addresses a student’s need for internal motivations and character traits that allow them to succeed. Social skills, the third principle, are the skills necessary to work in a “world of people” and promote collaboration and business relationships that are vital today. The fourth concept is agency, where, “students learn how to turn knowledge and ideas into action, to see that they can make a difference," a press release from the company said.
“This report provides answers on how we can best equip our current generation of learners with the type of education they need to thrive in the future world of work - an education that embraces innovation and that is highly dynamic.” Pearson Middle East Managing Director Karim Daoud said in the press release.
The author also weighed in.
“Learning becomes more powerful when it becomes more dynamic.” Leadbeater said. “This happens when the elements overlap, when learning becomes a social, dialogic and collaborative activity; when knowledge is tested and put to use in the cause of making something; when learning becomes a personal journey requiring resilience and determination.”
Virtue PR, the public relations firm representing Pearson, did not respond to inquiries, but international relations expert Federico Gaon spoke to the Gulf News Journal about the place of education in the Gulf area and modern changes.
Gaon said that although many Arab states acquired modernized education systems partly because of colonial relationships, some Gulf states were less influenced.
“One could say the monarchs of the Arab Peninsula had to create modern states from scratch.” Gaon said.
Gaon also addressed the core idea that education must reform itself from a fairly basic and concrete set of ideas to broader and more ambiguous goals.
“In its narrow sense, education is something like a basic tool-set to teach students how to read, write and execute tasks.” Gaon said. “Yet in a broader (postmodern) sense, education is all about challenging pre-established notions, thinking for oneself and innovation.”
Citing elements of oppressive traditionalism in the Gulf area, Gaon said a lack of innovation could hurt some nations, both in terms of economic vitality and quality of education.
“The Gulf states, for all their richness, lack innovation or entrepreneurial spirit.” Gaon said. “Moreover, innovation is discouraged. There is a hostile climate toward change. The religious establishment is too oppressive for new ideas to take hold.”
He also mentioned the inequity in some Gulf states, where migrant workers receive few human rights and their children tend to get inferior educations.
Regardless of these challenges, it seems that modern educators are embracing innovation to try to move the goalposts on a system that must serve a new generation, both as local and global citizens.