Gosaibi, South Korea and education

Turki Aldakhil
Turki Aldakhil
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In June 2012, I visited South Korea. The country’s development and rise is astonishing. I saw how the country has transformed into one of the world’s strongest economies in only 50 years. The cities destroyed by war and has risen from the ashes and achieved magnificent miracles.

A Korean woman showed me two photos. One was taken 50 years ago and it showed poverty and decay while the other recent one showed vibrant cities that seem to be always celebrating as their lights never go out.

I sat with five figures who contributed to the transformation there and I asked them what the secret behind this transformation is. They said: Education, then education then education.

At first, this statement may seem new to us but a Saudi official had once made a similar statement. It was late politician Ghazi Al Gosaibi. He probably gave this statement before the Koreans did. “Development cannot be achieved without education. Education, then education then education,” he had said.

This statement was made by a Saudi minister who had learnt about the world’s experiences and understood how nations rise. We are not only inspired by the Korean miracle but India, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore also inspire us. Education was the basis of all these renaissance of different cultures, which have their own religion, race and ethnicities.

Although some Arab educational institutions are almost 200 years old, they still face obstacles to progress. They are thus a burden on the society and governments

Turki Aldakhil

Institutionalizing education

So what’s the crisis we confront in Arab educational institutions?

Education was an extension of books and it did not take the form of institutions except at a late time. Some universities do not even focus on helping students excel and do not support creativity. Any education that is based on dictating and memorizing is viewed as an extension of books and it reflects a primitive method of education.

Although some Arab educational institutions are almost 200 years old, they still face obstacles to progress. They are thus a burden on the society and governments. One of the most dangerous teaching methods is to ask fixed questions with fixed answers.

This is particularly dangerous in literature, which is full of creativity and innovation. Such an approach makes students get used to one type of questions and they stop using their minds in trying to find their own answers.

One of the problems which education in Arab countries suffers from is the weakness while formulating goals. We can see the regression of the role of education and how its main goal is “to protect the existing culture” without giving students the chance to have their own opinion about society, art, women, beauty and existence. One answer is generalized to thousands of students to be memorized.

These students are then tested and they simply write the answers, which handed down to them. This is not education. This is simply memorization of what students learnt from their parents without a book or a curriculum. Students are not asked any philosophical questions that help them think deeper about this world.

Productive education

Late Egyptian writer Taha Hussein was a prominent critic of education in the Arab world. He defined the basis of education through his travels as he was influenced by the French culture. Hussein defined the meaning of productive education.

French philosophers influenced education policies in their countries. Philosopher Descartes’ famous statement is an example: “I think therefore I am”. It has had great influence. According to prominent researcher Hisham Saleh, France was influenced by Descartes even in “how to tie a shoelace.”

Education which wants to produce creative minds that rise with their societies needs to raise the ceiling of questions, end teaching methods via traditional books and decreases dictations and memorizations in order to stimulate one’s mind so that it becomes independent and efficient.

Any miracle we want must begin with education.

This article was first published in Al-Bayan on May 31, 2016.
Turki Aldakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and Alarabiya.net, the news channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in Dubai. He has received several awards and honors, including the America Abroad Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies. He tweets @TurkiAldakhil.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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