UNDP Helps Arab Universities with Reforms
With the aim of dumping traditional teaching methods and boosting the global competitiveness of Arab universities, development and education specialists from the region gathered in Amman on Monday to pave the way for reform, according to a statement by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), which organized the event.
Led by Rima Khalaf, director of the UNDP's Regional Bureau for Arab States (RBAS), an advisory committee comprised of prominent experts produced a blueprint for a pilot project that would expose Arab universities to international standards of evaluation, according to the statement.
The first of its kind in the Arab World, the pilot initiative will scrutinize two subject areas — computer science and business administration — seen as key to generating a skilled workforce and developing a modern economy.
A sampling of universities from the Arab countries will be invited to participate in the project by conducting an internal self-assessment, which will be followed by an external review.
The results will be used to develop a full-scale regional programme benefiting universities across the Arab world.
Hassan El Ibrahim, former minister of education in Kuwait and member of the advisory committee, applauded the initiative.
“There has been lots of talk over the last 15 years about the standard and output of higher education in the Arab World. Nowadays, the emergence of private universities across the Arab World has intensified the need for independent assessment,” Ibrahim was quoted as saying in the release.
"It is our duty to tell Arab youth which universities to apply to — whether public or private,” he stressed.
The UNDP said the initiative drew upon the fine-tuning of higher education in the West, which has been driven by demands for a dynamic work force to compete in the global market place, and a dramatic rise in university enrolment.
Arab scholars and decisionmakers concede, however, that universities in their countries have been constrained by the decline in traditional sources of revenue and a rapidly growing student body, with only limited public scrutiny and independent quality assessment.
As a result, the introduction of independent professional reviews, ratings, audits and performance indicators have become all the more important for students, employers and funding agencies to make informed decisions, according to the statement.
“By adopting independent professional peer reviews, universities in the Arab World will not only be able to respond to developments on the international scene, but they will also be exposed to healthy competition with greater institutional accountability and transparency,” said Khalaf, who also served as Jordan’s planning minister.
“The ultimate aim of this initiative is to increase the developmental impact of higher education programmes on Arab economies,” she added.
UNDP, the largest grant-based assistance programme within the United Nations, will provide the technical and financial assistance for this initiative, according to the statement.
Based at UNDP headquarters in New York, RBAS has implemented several related initiatives, which include improving the curricula and teacher training of schools in the region, as well as capacity-building in information and communications technology for Syrian universities – Albawaba.com
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