Egyptian Nobel laureate, Ahmed Zewail
Egyptian Nobel laureate Ahmed Zewail says that the failure of Arab education is an underlying cause of the youth discontent sweeping the Middle East and calls on Arab governments to institute major reforms. In a forthcoming article in the Cairo Review of Global Affairs released today, Zewail presents a plan for improving primary and higher education as well as research and development centers in the Arab world. “Only when we diagnose the symptoms can we cure the disease, and it is education that is at the core of any recovery, an Arab renaissance,” says Zewail. “It is imperative and a matter of urgency that education be elevated to a much higher national priority throughout the Middle East.”
Zewail, a professor at the California Institute of Technology and recipient of the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his pioneering work in the field of femtoscience, proposed the following reforms: a major national project to eradicate illiteracy; a dramatic increase in education spending; revamping teaching methodologies; a merit-based evaluation system for teachers; restructuring higher education into a multi-tiered system of public and private universities and vocational schools; and a national vision and allocation of substantial resources to establish R&D centers of excellence.
“No country can cut corners to development,” Zewail says. “Important changes in the Arab world will only occur if there is a political vision and will from the highest levels of the state. Arabs are in need of a renaissance that is built on a modern education and a science base with its triad of basic research, technology transfer and societal involvement. Arabs have an opportunity to regain their place in history. But we cannot live in the past or in the present with conspiracy theories. We must first solve our in-house problems in order to light the future.”
Zewail’s article, “Reflections on Arab Renaissance: A Call For Education Reform,” appears in the Spring 2011 issue of the Cairo Review of Global Affairs, a quarterly journal being launched in April by AUC’s School of Global Affairs and Public Policy (GAPP). The journal is also available online at www.thecairoreview.com.