Students studying in Arab universities are just as knowledgeable as their eighth-grade counterparts in Singapore aged 14-15, according to a Moroccan academic.
“An 8th grade Singapore student is as knowledgeable and skilled as a university student in the Arab world and this should bring us to focus on the inputs of this data,” Youssef Sadik, a professor at Morocco’s Mohammed V University, said referring to the findings of Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study.
He was addressing the recent Knowledge Summit in Dubai.
Students from Singapore universities are ahead of their peers in Sweden and the US too, as per the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report.
Skills of Arab students—who are joining the higher education system—are a lot less than elsewhere in the world, Sadik said.
In the PISA ranking, the UAE moved up a place compared with the previous study in 2012 to 47th in Mathematics.
However, it fell two places in science and reading to 46th and 48th, respectively. The country’s mean scores for each of three subjects also declined below the OECD average.
Scores on the Higher Education Index varied from 61.44 for the UAE, which came at the top, to 8.39 for Somalia which is ranked at the bottom.
However, none of the Arab countries scored more than 65.
Irrespective of the disparity in scores, all countries in the Arab region, including those with top rankings, need to do more to develop their educational systems in order to draw level with the average quality of systems around the world, the study found.
The study would help establish higher education goals for the whole Arab world and transform the higher education system, according to Sadik.
The PISA study measured 540,000 15-year-old students in 72 countries, including 15,000 from the UAE, for science, reading, mathematics and collaborative problem solving.
Is tech education at school, the answer?
A recent study done by Microsoft in the MENA region found that while teachers feel it’s imperative to integrate technology into educational institutions, the vast majority of them haven’t or are unable to do so.
Microsoft polled educators from primary, through to secondary and tertiary institutions, as well as academic governing bodies across the region.
About 97% of the those surveyed felt that technology plays a big role in transforming education systems.
However, only 32% of respondents are implementing STEM education and digital literacy as part of their curriculum.
What’s holding them back?
“With over half the survey respondents indicating a lack of budget and training to optimise the use of technology in the classroom, there is a definite need to improve integration of technology in classrooms in the region to meet the needs of the 21st century labour market,” says Ahmed Ameen Ashour, educational lead, Microsoft Gulf.
Other challenges identified by the respondents include a lack of training to use technology optimally, with 52% saying they didn’t have adequate access to training, and a further 40% indicated that there is a lack of integration of technology with the curriculum.
“As we bring technology into the classroom, we need to be careful that we use it to complement, rather than replace, traditional teaching practices, and ensure that it is approached holistically.