Experts call for better education quality control in Arab countries

DUBAI — The need to monitor and maintain the quality of higher education in all the Arab countries was recommended by a panel of experts at the two-day 11th Conference of Arab Higher Education Ministers, which began at the Zayed University's Dubai campus yesterday.

By Mohsen Rashed And Preeti Kannan

Published: Tue 6 Nov 2007, 8:48 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 4:35 AM

The conference, organised by the Arab League of Education, Culture and Science Organisation (Alesco), was inaugurated by His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in the presence of Shaikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and President of Zayed University.

Experts from Unesco and Alesco, and educationists and representatives from 22 Arab countries presented their recommendations at the conference. One of the major recommendations was the need for a quality assurance body in each Arab country to ensure standardised education and constant networking among all.

The need to reinforce autonomy and independence at academic, financial and administrative levels in higher education was also stressed by the delegates.

Many of the delegates suggested that Arab countries should increase their investment in higher education and research, besides engaging in direct talks with non-governmental organisations and stakeholders in higher education.

The conference also urged the Arab states to give a renewed thrust to the use of Arabic language in the portals of higher education.

Some of the experts called upon the heads of Arab states to open up to the external world by establishing relationships with international organisations like the Unesco and other western agencies.

Addressing the conference, Shaikh Nahyan said, “We face challenges when it comes to useful knowledge.”

The leadership of UAE under the President, His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Shaikh Mohammed, pays a great deal of attention and support to the education process, he pointed out.

Shaikh Nahyan pointed out that chairing the conference was a great responsibility and all Arab countries must implement their recommendations.

The conference, Shaikh Nahyan said, is aimed at achieving the best levels of efficiency and quality in higher education institutions in the Arab world.

Also addressing the conference, Alesco Director-General Dr Al Munji Busnina said the idea of the conference comes from the fact that our Arab societies are required to not only provide education for all, but also search for ways to provide good education for all.

“We must keep up with the rapid developments of information to play an effective role in all fields,” he said, pointing out that such improvements will reflect positively on educational establishments, and especially higher education.

On his part, Yemen's Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Dr Salih Ali Basra said cooperation and collaboration among all Arab countries in all fields was essential for restoring the existing situation in the field of education in Arab countries.

He added that education standards in all the Arab countries "need to be improved further because what we have achieved in this regard is not enough, and we still have a long way to go." The Yemeni minister also called on all Arab countries to play an effective role in implementing the development plan prepared by Alesco in cooperation with the Arab League General Secretariat.

Speaking on the sidelines of the conference, Ahmad Jammal, Director-General of Higher Education in Lebanon, told Khaleej Times, "Presently, very few countries have quality assurance agencies. All Arab countries should have that in place for a standardised and worldclass education. These proposals have been put forth after a lot of study and today the ministers will approve of these recommendations."

The GCC representative of the Pan-African Women's Organisation, Sara Mohammed Salem Al Khoweldi, who is attending the conference, said, "As an Arab woman, this conference is extremely significant. I am here to talk about how women like me can keep our Arab identity and yet move towards globalisation, which is equally important. Education is an important tool that will teach us how to maintain a fine balance between the two."

Meanwhile, an agreement has been signed for opening a branch of the Arab League Open University in Yemen, the Yemeni Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Dr Saleh Ali Basra, said on the sidelines of the conference.

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