New Arab Knowledge Index hopes to benefit MENA education systems

Published December 8th, 2015 - 09:40 GMT

Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation, a social organisation established by Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed, has launched the Arab knowledge index to help monitor annual knowledge levels in the Arab economies.

The index, which was launched during the ongoing Knowledge Summit in Dubai, compiles results from field research, in-depth studies and reviews conducted in different Arab economies. It was published in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme.

“A group of pioneers, experts and academics in the Arab world participated in the preparation of this valuable knowledge product, ensuring that the index functions according to scientific and statistical standards,” said MBRF’s managing director Jamal bin Huwaireb.

“The indicator includes six main indices covering the most vital sectors that represent the knowledge levels in every country, which are pre-university education; higher education; vocational education and training; research and development and innovation; information technology and communication; and the economic sector.”

The Arab knowledge index does not rank countries but provides statistical scores. Bin Huwaireb said that it was a conscious decision to avoid rankings.

“With this index, we are not exaggerating where we stand but we want to look forward and improve in areas where we are lacking. The report will show each government where they stand and help them to make improvements,” he said during a session.

Officials said the index will be instrumental in filling the knowledge gap for academics, researchers and the media. It will also provide reliable information to researchers who have complained that credible information from the region is hard to come by.

Although the first edition of the index covers most of the Arab world, Bin Huwaireb revealed plans to extend it to cover all Islamic countries from next year.

Unemployment and resulting poverty are sore topics in the Middle East following the Arab Spring protests in 2011. Since then, most governments have focused on introducing economic reforms that will help create more jobs and boost economic growth. Experts believe the insights the index provides in education will be particularly important in furthering this goal.

“We live in turbulent times and the region is losing focus in the area of knowledge, leading to spurt in extremism and other issues of concern,” said United Nations assistant secretary-general and director of the regional bureau for Arab states in the UNDP Dr Sima Bahouth.

“Qualitative education can help eradicate poverty and unemployment in the region and help establish development channels in the region.”

The launch of the index follows another announcement by Sheikh Mohammed, declaring 2016 as the year of reading. The initiative aims to promote the habit of reading among the Arab youth and fast track the UAE's ambitions to become a knowledge-based economy.

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