We need a world-class education system |
Saudi Gazette - 15 June, 2012
Author: Khaled Al Maeena
A recent report by the Korean Institute for Development highlighted the state of the Saudi economy and its future. It also focused on its strengths and weaknesses. It pointed out that Saudis, looking for job security, prefer to work in the public sector and that this will have a negative effect on the economy in the future since public sector employees are not productive and spend only 40 percent of their time working.
The report commissioned by the Saudi Ministry of Economy and Planning also highlighted several issues that could have a negative impact on growth and development. Heading this list was the educational level of Saudi job seekers which has yet to reach a satisfactory standard. It seems that despite an abundance of capital, our education system does not compare favorably with countries that have fewer resources.
Another point highlighted was our dependence on oil. What are we doing to decrease this dependence and to diversify our economy? Well, these issues have been hot topics for years. They always crop up in living room discussions and on TV debates and they will still be with us for many years to come.
The question to ask is whether we want to be part of the problem or the solution. And frankly while we have over the years talked ourselves blue in the face over these issues not much has been done about them.
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to solve these problems. What we need to do first is install a world-class curriculum, tailored to our needs that will produce young men and women who have critical thinking and brainstorming capabilities, along with good work ethics.
Sadly our education system despite recent advancements does not produce graduates with these essential skills. Education is not about reading or writing. It is about the process of thinking. It is about participation and involvement. These key elements are missing in our education system.
The other key issue is the obsession with government jobs. I am amazed that many of our youth do not seem to comprehend that they are living in a changed world, which is interesting, exciting, and challenging. There are now new professions, careers, and outlets for the energy and talents of young people. And yet when I speak to many Saudi graduates, they tell me that they prefer to work in the public sector, and they cite job security as the main reason for their choice.
However, I strongly believe that it is the parents in our society who instill in their children these thoughts by pointing out the “danger” of working in the private sector. A father gave me some examples of these “dangers” which were what you might expect: job insecurity, long working hours and, can you imagine, accountability!! Now we can’t just blame the government if we have fathers like this!!
So a combination of laziness, sloth, indifference, lack of vision, and a refusal to take on responsibility has put us in this position and has resulted in our lagging behind. Never mind the glitzy shopping malls, the high rise buildings, which incidentally have not taken into consideration environmental safeguards, and the fancy cars on the gutted potholed roads. These only add cosmetic value and are part of the great concrete culture, as once described by the eminent Saudi thinker and poet Abdullah Balkhair almost 35 years ago.
So to really shake up and shape up our education system, we need to have the will to do it. We should stop fooling ourselves and have the maturity to admit that there is a lot of ground to cover. Society as a whole should be motivated and all sections need to communicate and respond to new ideas.
A dramatic turn would be to ask the young what they want to learn. In a country of oil and water desalination, do our young people have any idea what it’s all about?
And the failure of our education system is not about a lack of talent. Having worked with the youth of this country for a long time, I get great comfort from the fact that they have the talent, the will, and the motivation to face challenges and adopt new methodologies.
Their only request is that they be freed from the clutches of committees, higher committees and archaic methods and systems. And if they are, then believe me, they can reach the stars, and propel us to being among the first nations of the world. — The author can be reached at email@example.com