Need to boost education in region, says official

The content and focus of education in the GCC countries is not in line with job market needs, according to a top official at the Arab Science and Technology Foundation.
Similarly, fewer students opt for postgraduate programmes, especially in scientific application,  which is disheartening, says Dr Abdullah Al Najar, President, ASTF.

Speaking to 'Emirates24|7', he said private sector needs to play a crucial role in fundung scientific research. He also suggested a three-point strategy to better euip the young generation with the needs of the job market and stop brain drain from the region.

The education is currently based on dictation rather than instilling the importance of innovation and research in students.

Dr Al Najar said spending on scientific research in Gulf universities has also come down. The budget is kept aside for salaries and facilities and not scientific research. Again bureaucratic are a hinderance to research.

While there has been an increase in the number of universities in the GCC - about 12.5 per cent rise in the last five years - they are mostly private and foreign universities. Government organisations are few.

Ar Al Najar called on the GCC countries  to adopt a 3-point strategy to boost educational sector.

Firstly, students of levels should be initiaited into research and educated about the importance of innovation.

Secondly, schools and universities must be linked with reasearch institutes and basic economics taught at every level.

Thirdly, research for community development must be made mandatory in universities.

The UAE allocates good funds for education, but is not enough. Spending on education in the GCC was $28 billion in 2007; it rose to just $35bn in 2009, he added.

Dr Najar also warned of the continuing Arab brain drain, and put the loss due to such a loss at about 200bn. About 54 per cent Arab students who go to study abroad do not return, he added.

He called on Gulf states to provide the right atmosphere and facilities to the young generation so as to stop this brain drain. More seminars and programmes need to be conducted to inform youngsters of the opportunities available in the region, Dr Al Najar said.

Common gulf research projects is the need of the hour. Giving an example, he said General Motors' R&D budget was more than that of the budget kept aside for the area by countries such as South Korea or India.

The number of patents in the Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE do not exceed one in 200 inventions, while in Turkey it was about 367 patents, India aboiut 766 patents, Brazil about 451, South Africa 382, Mexico 210 and Malaysia 177 patents.

He attributed the high number of patents in those countries to the contribution of the private sector in funding scientific research.

He asked the GCC countries to take  the global economic crisis as a catalyst to innovate and develop industrial and commercial solutions.

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