Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Education is illuminating…but could mislead | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Over 90 percent of university graduates never return to higher education, but rather rush to join the labour market. Thus, we can understand the reason why a university – such as Britain’s Oxford University – treats a new student who is perhaps only in his first months at the university as if were completely responsible for his own future career. The university is trying to proactively qualify its students for entry into the labour market by all means possible, and this is a very advanced and realistic way of thinking.

When I think of this situation, I cannot understand the reason why Saudi universities are so keen on sending their studies to Asian, European or American universities for a few days. This kind of extracurricular activity is fruitless, for it has completely lost its value following the emergence of the King Abdullah Foreign Scholarship Program that – via the Saudi Ministry of Education – provides all the necessary information about certified universities where students can be totally immersed in education, as if this were the most important thing in their lives.

Why should a university send its students to another university, when in reality it could, for example, send its media students – via this scholarship program – to be trained in prominent media corporation such as the “Guardian” or the “Washington Post”, or send its IT and administration students to “Google” or “Apple”, or send its science students to “NASA”, or its engineering students to car manufacturers in Korea and Japan? Broadening students’ knowledge and helping them to acquire training and better job prospects is an indicator of which universities are interested in “astonishing” the labour market with the standards of its graduates.

Let us think a little outside the box along the lines of Oxford University, for the path to success is paved with obstacles and difficulties. Any university in the world is nothing more than a conduit to a successful career, and when there is an accurate roadmap and safe passage, there is more chance of success.

King Saud University broke out of the familiar pattern by sending 12 female students to the United Nations [UN] and other international organizations including the UN’s World Health Organization, the World Food Programme, the Human Rights Council, the Environment Program, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, and the International Committee for the Red Cross. King Saud University did not think traditionally, rather it chose to place its students in the best work environments in terms of organizations and institutions, whilst also choosing the largest gathering of cultures and nationalities to emphasize the fact that professional success must not be affected by cultural patterns.

As for the female students who visited the UN; by attending live voting sessions, understanding work mechanisms, seeing how resolutions are issued and understanding the rules they are based on, and by familiarizing themselves with the role Saudi Arabia is performing in international organizations – as well as the roles these organizations are performing in Saudi Arabia – they have acquired a vast sum of knowledge and understood the reality on the ground.

Saudi Arabian women, more than women of any other nationality in the world, are privileged because they feel as if that they are facing a great challenge. This is because this challenge is not just a personal challenge, as is the case with their peers, but also a social and cultural challenge that has resulted in Saudi female students being extremely combative with regards to their visions and ambitions, as well as providing them with a determination to prove themselves. It was extremely easy to see such attributes during the open session that was held between Saudi students and their peers from the University of Lausanne during a discussion on the future prospects of Saudi women. During this session, Saudi students exhibited remarkable persistence in taking steps forward, whilst also displaying responsibility, maturity, and objectivity in handling the status of women in Saudi Arabia. I monitored the students’ performance during this session, as well as throughout the entire trip, and I can say that their discussions and views were put forward very courteously, whilst their questions were intelligent, their discourse brave, and their knowledge vast. At this point, I have to ask myself: is it logical for these female students to graduate and then get simple jobs in the education sector, or worse fail to find work and join the ranks of the unemployed? How can it be that there is no mechanism to head-hunt such students after they graduate, providing them with exceptional opportunities and directing them to areas that can most benefit from their abilities and skills?

What King Saud University did by organizing such a trip can be described as a prescribed treatment to the 2.5 million unemployed people in Saudi Arabia. This is a remedy to end marginalization, providing complete commitment to Saudi women’s conservative identity. To organize this trip, the university had to pay the cost for each female student to be accompanied by a male relative – a father, a husband, or a brother – because Saudi law prohibits Saudi women from traveling unaccompanied. This meant that the female students had to pay double the price of their male peers. Whilst it is true that the price was higher, the results were definitely worth the cost.

Creating a successful and well-rounded individual is certainly one of the most important tasks of any country, for this is a strategic task, and if you ignore this today, you will certainly suffer the consequences for this tomorrow.