Great expectations: Western-style education in the Gulf states
The 2003 Arab Human Development Report (AHDR)1 singled out educational systems in Arab states for their failure to create the “knowledge societies” necessary for a transition to sustainable development. While this essay concentrates on higher education, the AHDR is unsatisfied with Arab education at every level. Its authors point to the dominant style of child-rearing in the Arab world, which they criticize as both authoritarian and over-protective. Social strictures block the education of women so thoroughly that “high rates of [female] illiteracy persist,” and neither state nor private-sector resources are sufficiently channeled into education: “Many children still do not have access to basic education. Higher education is characterized by decreasing enrollment, and public spending on education has actually declined since 1985” (UNDP 2003: 3). The AHDR also criticizes universities in the developing world for deficiencies in their capacity to produce knowledge (AHDR 2003: 35). Its authors look toward the development of institutions that lead to “collective learning” that is useful rather than harmful (AHDR 2003: 36), knowledge that “can contribute to finding solutions to problems affecting society at a particular time” (AHDR 2003: 37).