Using tech in schools could cut dropout rates in Arab world: Experts

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Dubai, Arab Literacy Challenge Forum, Using, technology, schools, cut, dropout rates, Arab world, Experts,

Dubai - A lot of the illiteracy issues in Arab states arise due to economic and cultural reasons.


Dhanusha Gokulan

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Published: Mon 24 Feb 2020, 8:00 PM

Last updated: Tue 25 Feb 2020, 11:41 PM

Using technologies and digital resources in schools could help slash illiteracy rates in Arab countries, experts said at the first-ever Arab Literacy Challenge Forum, which opened in Dubai on Monday, February 24.   
Dr Ahmed Ouzzi, professor emeritus of psychology and education at the University of Mohamed V in Rabat, Morocco, said digitalisation must be considered as one part of the solution.
"If used adequately, digitisation could be a great ally of schools in mitigating illiteracy," Dr Ouzzi said. "Youngsters always use the computer in school, and at home. This is why they don't like the traditional way of learning, due to which dropouts have increased in number."
He also pointed out that bringing artificial intelligence and robotics into the classroom can help engage young minds. Another expert - Hany A Torky, chief technical adviser for the Arab Knowledge Project - agreed that tech should be part of a framework that could help eradicate illiteracy. However, he explained that mind-sets must also change.
"A lot of the illiteracy issues in Arab states arise due to economic and cultural reasons. In Egypt, for example, parents see more benefit in sending their kids to the market to earn money," Torky told Khaleej Times on the sidelines of the forum.
"This may work for families in the short-term, however, over time, since the children have no skills, they will become unemployed."
He said incentives for staying in school could possibly reduce the number of dropouts.
Need for common guidelines
To eradicate illiteracy, the Arab world needs to have a policy framework that can list out guidelines, the experts said.
This guide could include measures that define the use of technology in classrooms; explain methods to reduce dropouts; and particularly address illiteracy rates among women.
Illiteracy in the region stands at 21 per cent, according to statistics from the Arab League Educational, Cultural, and Scientific Organisation, exceeding the global average of 13.6 per cent.
While illiteracy among Arab males is 14.6 per cent, it is 25.9 per cent among females, going as high as 60 per cent in some nations.
Illiteracy among women
Dena Assaf from the UN explained: "The situation is more complicated in countries that have endured conflict. There are 28.5 million out-of-school children in the world and half of them live in conflict-plagued countries. Of these, four million live in the Arab region, and girls make up 55 per cent of the total.
"In fact, women make up 63 per cent of the global illiterate population."
It is important to address this illiteracy among women because "educated women have a better chance of escaping poverty and ensuring a better standard of life for their children", she said.
Though much work remains to be done to completely solve the challenge, Assaf applauded the efforts of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Foundation and noted that literacy rates have improved in recent years.
"School enrolment and literacy rates have actually increased," she said.
"The adult literacy rate rose to 75.3 per cent up from 65 per cent in 2000, while youth literacy rates grew to 86.8 per cent from 81.8 per cent.
"Nevertheless, the region continues to lag behind global averages," Assaf added.

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