That is why the announcement by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed, vice president and prime minister of the UAE, of his intention to obtain 5,000 learning videos in maths and science, have them translated into Arabic, and make them available online to 50 million pupils in the Arab world, comes as a precious gift.
This is a candle being lit in the path of learning, which has been stumbling in the Arab world, as he said. He has invited scholars and experts to participate in translating these videos, which were previously produced and taught in other languages.
Teaching physics, chemistry, biology and maths has been challenging in Arabic schools because most teachers are not qualified, and most schools have poor budgets and lack laboratories and teaching aids. Moreover, the general environment at home and in society does not encourage learning.
So electronic and video learning may narrow the gap, especially with the widespread use of smartphone apps among children. We can also benefit from experiences in other countries such as India, where video learning has helped bypass the challenges of weak teachers and poor capabilities.
Education is the path to development for all nations. Most of the Arab world suffers from poor education policies, for which we are paying a high price. If governments consider education their main project, and if they focus on it within a strategy that suits the needs and circumstances of each country, we could escape the bottleneck and catch up with developed countries, including some that were only recently suffering from failure and backwardness.
Electronic learning is the best solution, not only in the fields of science and maths, but for all subjects and educational stages.
Sheikh Mohammed’s project is for everyone in the Arab world. Making educational services freely available is the most valuable gift that can be presented to any pupil with a smartphone or computer anywhere in the region. The project, when completed next year, will offer the gist of international curricula in science and maths. Most of these curricula are common all over the world, from nursery until the end of secondary school.
This is a first step that can encourage the use of new technology to modernize education and overcome difficulties. Education in the Arab world is going round in a vicious circle. We need highly qualified teachers, expensive equipment, and smaller classes within an integrated educational system.
Most of these requirements are unavailable now, and 100 years may pass without real development. This makes electronic learning the best alternative solution, not only in the fields of science and maths, but for all subjects and educational stages.
• Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya news channel, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, where this article is also published. Twitter: @aalrashed