DUBAI: Arab countries need to improve their education systems, a leading UN official has said, with only the UAE performing impressively in the sector.
Hany Torky, the UNDP’s chief technical adviser, said GCC countries were spending the same amount of money on education but only the UAE was making an impact.
“So far the UAE has appeared as a leader in knowledge not just in the Arab countries but also across Asia. No other country has performed so well as the way UAE has done and continues to do that,” he told Arab News. “The reason can be the quality of teachers, corruption, using resources in the right manner, quality of students. All these factors count for a lot.”
He was speaking to Arab News while sharing the latest results of the Global Knowledge Index, which this year placed the UAE 19 out of 134 countries. It ranked 13 in pre-university education and 20 in higher education.
Torky said the idea of education needed to be redefined in the region because of technological breakthroughs including artificial intelligence, virtual reality and coding.
“We need to use technology to improve social and communication skills. Teachers cannot be replaced by robots. However, robots can help teachers to perform better.”
Saudi educationalist Omar Farooqi said a teacher’s role would change dramatically and they would become more like guides or advisers.
“The problem comes in the form of parents and top-to-bottom implementation of technology in schools,” he told Arab News, “otherwise if you look at the youth population in the Arab world, it is larger than the adult population. Therefore, these children have grown with technology in their hands and on their fingertips. They are more than willing to embrace it.”
The UAE was quick to adopt technology and trends faster than anywhere else in the Arab world, he added, and technology was also a way to revamp the curriculum in public sector schools.
“The Public (school) sector needs a complete revamp of standards from top to bottom of school operations. Private schools, on the other hand, are heavily geared primarily toward commercial success. Therefore the quality of education versus tuition fees is not appropriately balanced. Once it is balanced out, then there is cause for optimism for the private sector to take the lead in helping the public system set higher governance standards through strong strategic collaboration,” said Farooqui.
The Global Knowledge Index is produced annually by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Foundation in partnership with the UNDP.