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Dubai’s ruler has recently made an announcement of donating $10bn for a newly formed education body. The idea behind this charity is to raise the standards of education and create more jobs for the Arab people. The foundation, called after the ruler’s name, the Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum Foundation, is expected to work on human development in the Middle East. As per Sheikh’s own words, Arabs needed to develop a “knowledge-based society” to meet with the challenges of a new millennium. There is a growing fear across the Arab world that a lacking education and scientific research might adversely affect their economic growth.
Despite having attained a fair deal of economic growth in the last few decades, the Arab world is still adamant in accepting the outside world’s influences, which includes modern education and scientific knowhow. They may cooperate with the outside world for economic reasons, but wouldn’t allow that association to grow any further. The prevalence of orthodox Islam makes it only difficult for them to have any significant exchanges with the outside world. As a result many look at modern education with a shade of suspicion. There is a growing sense among the more aware people however, that this attitude might be taking them towards a disaster.
One can easily understand the reason of this growing concern by looking at the education scenario in the Arab world. While the rate of illiteracy among the Arab women is more than 40%, the quality of education for those who are literate is not very encouraging either. The number of books being published across the whole of Arab world is less than what Turkey does it alone. The knowledge gap of the Middle East from that of the developed Asia and West is mind boggling. There is no room for any complacency left anymore, and one required undertaking serious reforms in the area of modern education. As per Dubai’s Sheikh himself, they could no longer ignore the significance of modern education, since much of the outside world was already leaps ahead in that sphere.
The proposed foundation is expected to develop not only education, but also create more jobs. Most of the Arab world is experiencing a rapid population growth and requires generating 15 million jobs immediately. This deficit of jobs might rise up to 80 million by the year 2035. There was an urgent need for creating more awareness among the entrepreneurs therefore, and allow them to have better training. Growing infrastructure was already made the top priority by most Arab nations; however it might not help in the longer run, unless they had a strong workforce of ethnic Arabs ready to assume charge.
Sheikh Mohammed, who is also known for his keen interest of racehorses, announced his latest charity plan at the World Economic Forum, organized recently in Jordan. It is being touted as one of the largest donations of its kind in the man’s history. One will have to wait to know now, how much this might help in developing the knowledge-base of the Middle East.