I was unable to disregard the story of Alaa, an Egyptian student, on whose behalf President Hosni Mubarak intervened to ensure she succeeds in her secondary school exams. She had failed the test after criticizing the US president and the ruling regime in Egypt. This issue deserves more than just a passing mention!
Did this student deserve to pass? Perhaps some might argue yes or no. But who really deserves to fail here? I believe the entire education system, which created this student and countless others like her deserves that distinction. This is not only applicable to Egypt but to the entire Arab world, where everything has become utterly confused.
In schools and universities, curricula are pre-determined and anything that might encourage students to be creative is buried, including extra-curricular activities that encourage reading and research. All the while, many teachers and academics have become skillful in spreading their personal thoughts and analyses on politics, religion and the economy, thereby increasing hatred and the development of uninformed opinions due to a lack of reading.
This has led Prince Khaled al Faisal to hold a seminar entitled “the hidden curricula,” given that this evil has reached and continues to affect Saudi Arabia, as well as other Arab countries. In our region, the notion of freedom has become synonymous with chaos!
Unfortunately, this is our bitter reality in the Arab world. Our education is blind and governed by passions and delusions. Instead of Alaa’s case turning into a political issue, after which the student passes and the file is closed and forgotten, the door for developing, even reforming, education should be opened, with teachers acting as the starting point.
If drivers are obliged to renew their licenses at certain periods in their lives, should it not be the case that the drivers of the most important and most difficult vehicles, namely our next generation, should be subjected to continuous evaluation and development?
I am not calling for diminishing the number of religious subjects in the curricula or for adding one text at another’s expense. Instead, I am calling for the adoption of education curricula that will help produce a generation with the required skills and the ability to think creatively.
When students can ask their teachers questions without fear, it will be the appropriate time to speak of freedom, with responsibility, of course.