A noticeable protest was organized by teachers in the United Arab Emirates against what they considered removal from their positions as teachers based on the pretext of “ideological orientation”. They argued that the ministry transferred them from their principal posts to fulfill other jobs at other ministries.
If these teachers were dismissed from their positions and forced to stay at home then perhaps one would sympathize with them and be critical of what they were subjected to. But where does the problem lie since they have been given other posts?
The issue of teaching in our Arab world is complex and the teaching post is more than just a job. Silence surrounds this issue in most of our educational institutes and it is not addressed in the required manner. It is not surprising that we suffer from low standards of education.
The question is: Is education a private club where people have the right to promote their ideas and convictions or is education a scientific process that is governed by standards and follows researched curricula that have been approved by qualified parties so that the outcome would be a productive conscious generation of students?
Are our sons and daughters guinea pigs to be tested on? Does their education represent a battlefield for those who seek to consolidate their beliefs and trends whatever they may be, Islamist or otherwise?
A lot is said about the right to teach and learn yet little is done about the confrontation between the two; the proof lies in the fact that as more and more students graduate the more levels of unemployment increase.
Qualifying teachers is more important than qualifying students. The conditions that should be stipulated in the education sector should be stricter towards teachers than their subjects. There are many stories that are relayed in our Arab world that reflect the situation of this considerable segment of society, namely teachers, regarding their qualifications and ideas, yet no action is taken in this regard.
We should be concerned with the development of teachers and providing the necessary means to advance their knowledge, lives, and ideological and behavioral integrity as they are entrusted with our children and their futures.
A while ago, I had a conversation with New York Times writer Thomas Friedman about the importance of education and I expressed my belief that the United States spent large amounts of money on weapons and wars in our region and if it spent just ten percent of that amount on education in the Arab world then this would have made a difference. But this is another matter.
Friedman said to me, “There are states that embark upon an ideological battle with their societies or governments so that they may progress. There are countries that compete with other countries for the sake of progression. Meanwhile, advanced countries engage in battles with their imaginations in order to advance.”
We want to be amongst those countries that battle their imaginations in order to advance; but is this possible when education is engaged in an ideological battle? Do our classes represent fertile grounds for thinking and creativity? This is the question!
I find myself forced to repeat the question that I put forward in an opinion editorial published July 4, 2006: why is it that when we were young we were repeatedly told to recall the lines of a poem by Ahmed Shawqi that read:
Stand up for the teacher and pay him great respect
As the teacher is almost a prophet
Yet there is complete disregard for the rest of the poem that reads:
If the teacher lacks insight for a moment…
Then those under his tutelage will lack vision
If guidance is based on a whim…
and on arrogance, then call that misguidance