Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Education and the Road to Development | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Anyone who ‘sits on the fence’, and endlessly compromises, is ultimately helpless, and anyone who becomes obsessed with maintaining balance will eventually achieve nothing, and attain no targets. Those who have inspired development across the world believed in their own ideas, and worked hard to implement them, regardless of other people’s rejection. Imam al-Shaif’i [a Muslim jurist, who lived from 767 CE to 820 CE whose teaching eventually led to the Shafi’i school of fiqh] once said “satisfying everyone is an unattainable goal.” These words applied to the Saudi Ministry of Education for many years, when it continuously promoted the slogan of developing school syllabuses, curricula, and education methods, whilst at the same time it was at a standstill. There was no evidence that suggested or indicated the slightest change, and the Ministry’s plans for achieving its goals were always hazy and ambiguous.

Today, the ministry is going through a crucial historical phase. There is new blood, new ambitions and certainly new dreams. These are all being supported by a mature and rational leadership, which strongly believes that education is the natural gateway for any development, renaissance, or change.

This particular phase will have its own key figures, tools and means for drawing up school syllabuses and textbooks, as well as future plans. It was not acceptable for the Ministry of Education’s spokesman to say, following the furore caused by the elementary school book ” Fiqh and Behaviour”, that “no author is entitled to include his own opinions in the syllabus”, and that the ministry is not interested in the personal opinions of authors or reviewers, outside the contexts of the curriculum. I do not know how an individual’s opinions can be separated from the intellectual work he prepares and produces.

In the address delivered by Minister of Education, Prince Faisal Bin Abdullah, celebrating the beginning of the new academic year, my attention was drawn to his desire to create an environment of evaluation and regulation, which is independent from the ministry. Ensuring such an environment is a necessity, considering the importance of the era, and the sensitivities of the current education phase. There is a need to cope with the requirements of the age, so that the road [to development] is not further delayed. Education programs should have a clear impact on society within a specific timeframe after their launch. All developed countries today are indeed the products of their education systems, as predicted by the minds that were well aware of the results and benefits beforehand. Had we had an evaluating and regulating environment as such from the beginning, we would have heard the alarm bells at the right time. Based on our firm belief that education has a pivotal role in the renaissance and advancement of nations, I’m hopeful that our educational plans have found the right path, and are being expertly guided in their sail towards their destination.