Riyadh – President of the American University of Cairo said that higher education, especially in universities should play a major role in rationalizing youths and guiding them in the right direction through communication, cooperation, and problem solving. He considered that terrorist exploits religion to achieve political goals.
AUC’s President Francis Ricciardone told Asharq Al-Awsat that among higher education institutions, universities should make doubled efforts to combat terrorism. He added: “The US education method or the so-called liberal education is based on research, analysis, and criticism. This method focuses on four basics: the critical thinking to learn how to ask questions and to seek problems we want to solve, creativity and mind openness in different ways and how to solve problems like art and history; communication by teaching the English language to connect with the world; and cooperation among different groups and teams, which leads to gradual advancement.”
Ricciardone who served as ambassador to the United States in Egypt, Iraq, Turkey, and Afghanistan, noted that education is makes the new generation and ends terrorism.
“Education, art, renovation, openness, religion, sciences, business management, engineering, and sociology, they all make civilization, while terrorism is made of fear, ignorance and hatred. It is a cancer that attacks a sound body; it is oppression and savagery, and education is the cure and the prevention from this cancer,” he stated.
Ricciardone visited Saudi Arabia where he met many officials in the Ministry of Education and national universities and discussed means to strengthen ties and partnerships. He continued saying that we want to tighten the relations between American University and the kingdom, highlight its role worldwide and its keenness to attract students outside Egypt.
He stated: “in the past, the university used to host 20% of non-Egyptian students every year, however, this rate dropped to 5%. We aim to raise this number and attract more students from the Arab countries and the world, and we aim to see fruitful efforts soon.”
Responding to a question on the importance of higher education in fighting terrorism, Ricciardone answered: “during my diplomatic missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, and Turkey, the US embassy was a target for many terrorist attacks. I personally faced direct assaults. For me, terrorism is using violence to achieve political goals; it is a criminal act, but this is not the accurate answer, and we have to realize the main source of terrorism, which is composed of a bunch of complicated triggers.”
Commenting on the gap between the universities’ outputs and the labor market, which many Arab countries suffer from, Ricciardone said that this challenge is facing the higher education worldwide. He considered that entrepreneurship with all its dangers and the creation of new job opportunities is the perfect solution for this problem.
He added: “we have to respond to people’s needs. To solve problems of food, population growth, global warming, spread of diseases, pollution, conflicts, and lack of water in the Middle East. All these problems require studies and opportunities so the new generation can use modern technologies and exploit it in addressing these problems.”