In its 2008 report the World Bank stated that the quality of education in the Arab world is falling behind other regions such as Asia and South America and needs urgent reform. In a region where the population is getting younger and 60% is under 25 (UNDP Arab Development Report) and 30% of the 300m population is illiterate (Arab League Educational Organisation), schools are not delivering the skills needed to get jobs or to attract inward investment, and youth unemployment is a significant issue.
The Korn/Ferry research, which will be published in Autumn 2010, finds that Arab leaders agree with this assessment, and many make a clear link between education, employment and extremism. The political, business and social leaders interviewed are unanimous in their concern about what may happen if the region’s booming population is not efficiently funneled through the education system into the job market.
Arab leaders highlight the key to future prosperity and stability as education, and that developing a competitive workforce is a defining issue for the region. One of the interviewees described the failure to provide an effective education system for all as a ‘time bomb which could be a major cause of future social unrest and religious extremism.’
Metin Mitchell, managing director MENA for Korn/Ferry International, who led the Business Leadership research, commented:
“Educational reforms have not fully delivered on their promises. In particular, the relationship between education and economic growth has remained weak, the divide between education and employment has not been bridged, and the quality of education continues to be disappointing. Also, the Middle East has not yet caught up with the other emerging markets in terms of adult literacy rates and the average years of schooling in the population aged 15 and above. Despite considerable growth in the level of educational attainment, there continues to be an “education gap” when compared with other regions.”
He continued, “It is very encouraging to see how business leaders are of one mind in viewing education as a major factor in the future development of the Middle East. Many governments have been too focused in developing local infrastructure projects and have neglected the fundamental issue, which is that a world class education cannot rest on building state of the art facilities. The need is to attract, train and develop qualified teachers and researchers and to act in consultation with the business world understand its requirements and develop educational programmes that helps prepare and train the population for future employment.”
“What came through from our interviews with Arab leaders is that the region needs to embrace change on several fronts. The reliance on expatriate labour at all levels needs to be broken whilst businesses need to give priority to local graduates, and form closer ties with local universities and colleges,” he added.
Metin Mitchell concludes, “Ultimately both government and business need to invest to ensure the long term prosperity of the region, diversifying away from the accumulation of wealth through exploitation of finite natural resources and ensure a sustainable social structure built around a highly educated population.”
Tuesday, September 28- 2010 @ 9:07 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.