Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The Teacher and the Emperor | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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An Emperor of Japan was once asked the secret behind the great progress achieved by Japan in various aspects of life, and he attributed this to the promotion of education and teachers, saying “We began where others ended, and we have learned from their mistakes, and we have given the teacher the immunity of a diplomat and the salary of a minister.”

This is a fact, as the position of a teacher in Japan was directly below that of the Emperor. If you are a teacher in Japan, this means that you are one of the most prominent and important stars of society, as only the most talented and intelligent are able to assume this job. This is a fact that is known by all Arab countries, and it is something that has been devoured by all those working in the education industry and represents a prominent example of how education can contribute to state development. However why do our attempts to reform education and promote teaching in the Arab world always take us back to square one? I think that one of the problems is that each Arab Minister of Education has his own program and agenda that differs from the program and agenda of his predecessor, as well as those of his successor. This is something that requires education strategies to have comprehensive features that are capable of persisting regardless of any changes in the leadership of the [Arab] education ministries.

The Ministry of Education in Saudi Arabia – under its new leadership – is preparing to launch a new framework for the educational curriculum of primary and intermediate level students from the beginning of next year. I hope that this step will represent a larger and deeper vision than the previous series of [reform] attempts, and that this has a clear impact in advancing the ideas, behaviour, and attitudes to life, of our children. These reforms come within a crucially important historical context, and coincide with King Abdullah’s vision on the importance of education and his conviction of what education can achieve with regards to advancement and development in various aspects of our lives. To be more concise, society is looking forward to an educational structure that is able to strengthen its intellectual, scientific, economic, and social security, a structure that can meet the challenges of the present and the future, in which a teacher is a light to guide our children towards deeper values of altruism, equality, and tolerance.

I cannot hide my optimism for those who are currently in charge of education in Saudi Arabia, as they may be the most capable of achieving what we have been dreaming of for a long time.