It is not surprising that the most distinguished students in science and mathematics come from the most developed countries in the world – South Korea, Singapore, Japan and other major industrial countries. It is also no secret that development and advancement are linked to teaching these two subjects, i.e. science and math, and excelling in them.
The UAE’s Vice President and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid recently presented a precious gift when he announced the intention to translate more than 5,000 videos related to maths and science material into Arabic in order to make them available for around 50 million students across the Arab world.
This is a candle that lights up the path of education, which has been stumbling in the Arab world, as he put it. He also called on volunteers to step forward and help translate thousands of videos which have been already translated into different languages for teaching purposes.
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There are difficult challenges pertaining to teaching physics, chemistry, biology and math in Arab schools because most teachers are not qualified and most schools are actually poor and not equipped with laboratories and illustrative material. Also, students’ atmosphere at home and their society does not encourage them to focus on these subjects.
Video learning and e-learning narrow the gap especially considering children’s increased use of cellular phones. Take India as an example. Relying on video learning contributed to overcoming challenges in schools where teachers have weak teaching skills and where they suffer from a shortage of equipment.
Almost all Arab countries suffer from the failure of education policies, and we have paid a high price as a resultAbdulrahman al-Rashed
Path to progress
Nations’ path to progress and transformation is through education. Almost all Arab countries suffer from the failure of education policies, and we have paid a high price as a result. If governments adopt education as its own project and focuses on it within the framework of a strategy that suits each country’s needs and circumstances, we can exit the bottleneck and keep up with the world. Some countries have, until recently, suffered from failure and backwardness like us.
Teaching is a difficult profession which takes a long time to yield results; however they are long-term results. The most challenging subjects to teach are math and science. International institutions look at the work of students from across the world every four years and study it. They study the achievements of around 4,000 students in grades 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 and evaluate a state’s capability and predict its future according to them.
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Sheikh Rashid’s project is for everyone across the Arab world. Making educational services available for free is the greatest gift which can be granted to any Arabic-speaking student who has a cellular phone or a laptop. The project will be submitted once it’s done next year. It will sum up global math and science curricula which are the same for all students all over the world, from kindergarten until the last year of high school.
This marks the first step that can encourage benefitting from technology and using it to modernize education to save time and overcome difficulties. Education in the Arab world is moving in a vicious circle as it requires highly-qualified teachers, expensive equipment and small classes all within a comprehensive work plan.
Most of these demands are not available today and it may be 100 years before developing them. E-learning is thus the solution, not only to teach math and science, but to teach all subjects throughout all school stages.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.