Education in the Middle East and India
Features

Education in the Middle East and India

“Education is not only a fundamental human right but perhaps the most necessary element of development of any nation” – Dr Wasil
Appointed Chairman of the CBSE Gulf Council, received the President’s Teacher Award, awarded a Fellowship for research at Cambridge, received the Sharjah Economic Excellence Award as CEO, felicitated at various forums, recognized as a key note speaker at diverse education conferences – these are some tangible outcomes of the meaningful and constructive role that Dr Farooq Wasil, CEO of Goldline Education, has played in his 30 years as an educator contributing to the education system in the Middle East.
An expert on the Middle East education sector, he has been witness, since the 1990s, to an exponential growth in the GCC countries in terms of increase in education spend as well as enrollment.

Government Support

To create a high level of awareness and a high standard of education in the Middle East, the Government of UAE has been extremely benevolent and supportive towards nurturing the education sector. Dr Wasil endorses the highly progressive vision of the UAE which currently devotes approximately 25 percent of the total federal government spending to education. The overall literacy rate in the UAE is 90%. The GCC governments, on average, spend about 3.3 percent of their GDP on education. Saudi Arabia in particular spends 5.6% of GDP on education.

Gender Parity

Statistics in Saudi Arabia show that more women are attending institutions of higher learning than men. Saudi women are studying abroad alone. Women are overcoming barriers and gaining more confidence and freedom, as female education and equality is on the rise in the Middle East.
Dr Wasil is enthusiastic about the developments, “Education is the only ladder to development for a nation, and contribution to this development comes from both genders. Particularly for women, education is a gateway to a better life, to better understand their human rights and to protect themselves against gender discrimination.”

UAE As a New Destination for Education

A remarkable feature of the 21st century is the fact that the world is now just one big village and the Internet makes us all think we are close irrespective of geographic distances or boundaries. With the increase in penetration of connectivity, today’s children are acutely aware of what is available as education not only in their own country but also across the globe along with a huge never-before exposure to the global employment markets as well as information on the skills necessary to succeed in these markets.
“Governments are also aware of the need for educational reforms as well as the need to inject the much-needed ‘new blood’ into education, so local education systems are at par with international standards,” observes Dr Wasil. “The UAE is a welcoming environment, which attracts international institutions to set up base in the GCC countries for the following reasons: strategic location of the United Arab Emirates within easy access to half the world’s population; a multi-cultural society in an increasingly globalized economy; degree recognition not only in the UAE and GCC nations, but also in the country of origin of the issuing institution; lower cost of living as compared to Canada, the US, Australia and the UK; offices of international businesses in the UAE, giving students a valuable opportunity for hands-on experience during their MBA programmes.”

Reflections on India

He has served as Chairman of the CBSE Gulf Council from 2002 to 2003. He notes, “The rules and regulations are the same in the Middle East and India. However, there is a vast difference in terms of cultural adaptability for our curriculum and schools which is an overarching priority for functioning in the Middle East. “Research-based evidence strongly suggests that no developing country can sustain high rates of growth without investing heavily in educating its young people, as education helps in the all-round development of the individual, makes them better prepared to face the myriad challenges of lives, and enhances people’s ability to lead happier, healthier and more productive lives.”

e-learning

Middle East’s education system is very advanced as they have already shifted to the e-learning mode. India has been cautiously moving towards it; however, whether the mode of learning is ‘e’ or otherwise, the watchword is quality. India is not very far behind in terms of creation of e-learning materials to suit the local curricula. Dr Wasil remarks, “While the phenomenon is mostly urban, with Digital India now gaining momentum, e-learning would also penetrate rural areas. This would be a plus for consumers since the Government would also initiate low-cost robust e-learning platforms and packages, which in turn will force private players to relook their price point.”

The Future

So, where is the future of learning spaces in the Middle East and India heading? As an educationist, he takes note of the research that old school facilities and the struggle of students & teachers with noise, glare, mildew, lack of fresh air, and hot or cold temperatures have a huge and often negative impact on children’s education. 25–30-year-old school designs must give way to new tools, techniques and teaching methods such as open and flexible floor plans with natural light to avoid Vitamin D and B12 deficiency, electronic chalkboards, portable computers, expandable networking and interactive video. Dr Wasil explains, “The difference can be similar to writing in the sand and surfing the Internet.”
In the future, the student population would be more multi-cultural, and teachers need to ensure that their individual teaching style encompasses students’ diverse cultural needs. To enable this shift to be successful, learning spaces and environments will need to be dynamic and fluid. A tech-rich environment and teachers as powerful facilitators and enablers in the learning process is the future.
Quoting the visionary leader of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed, Dr Wasil sums it up, “The real asset of any advanced nation is its people, especially the educated ones, and the prosperity and success of the people are measured by the standard of their education.”