Arabia and the knowledge gap

April 8, 2009

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate— Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own. —

Think big. Think global. Spare no expense. That could be the motto for an ambitious effort by the United Arab Emirates to close the knowledge gap with the West and eventually restore Arab learning to its former glory.

Headlines from Dubai, the second-largest and most flamboyant of the seven emirates that make up the country, have been dominated by the bursting of a spectacular property bubble and an exodus of foreigners who lost their jobs as the global recession slowed down the economy. One thing that is not slowing –an education drive without parallel in the Arab world.

“Our commitment to excellence in education remains undiminished despite the economic crisis,” the UAE minister of higher education and scientific research, Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan told a meeting this month that brought together some 1,000 students from 120 countries to discuss subjects that ranged from educating deaf students to improving global financial stability by better regulation.

Around the world, education is a tempting target for budget cutters in times of financial distress. But the UAE education budget has been increased by 12 percent this year and now takes up almost a quarter of overall spending. Expensive? Yes. But, as one speaker at a panel discussion put it: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

The 1,000-student get-together in Dubai, more famous for over-the-top opulence than as an educational center, is known as Education Without Borders and takes place every two years, as does an event dubbed Festival of Thinkers that brings together Nobel Prize Winners and well-known public intellectuals with students from the UAE and neighboring countries. The next one is scheduled for November.

“What’s been happening here,” said Jamil Mroue, a Lebanese newspaper publisher who now makes his home in Abu Dhabi, “is that the Emirates have turned into an incubator for new ideas and fresh thinking. The ancient seats of Arab learning – Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad – have nothing new to contribute.”

It is somewhat ironic that a country as young as the UAE – at 37 years old, a mere toddler of a place – is seen as an example for the heavyweights of Arab history to follow. Few members of the founding generation had any formal schooling. In 1972, when Ras al Khaimah joined six other emirates to complete the United Arab Emirates, the new country had just 45 university graduates, five of whom were women.


Now the UAE has 60 colleges and universities and female students comfortably outnumber men. At the largest institution of higher learning, for example, the Higher Colleges of Technology, the ratio of women to men is 10,000 to 6,000.

Three out of five students in the public education system – which is free for Emiratis – are women, a remarkable achievement in a Muslim country. Gender equality is enshrined in the constitution and while health care and education attract a considerable share of educated women, the UAE air force admitted four female pilots last year. Women also serve in the police and make up about a fifth of the diplomatic corps.

So, how close is the UAE to the aim announced two years ago by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai, “to build a knowledge-based society throughout the region and enhance the standing of scholars and intellectuals in the Arab world.”

Still a way to go. At the time, Sheikh Mohammed pledged $10 billion to the project and announced plans to re-establish the Arab House of Wisdom which flourished in Baghdad in the Arab World’s golden age, from 800 to 1,500 AD, and had no rivals in the study of philosophy and science. Discoveries ranged from algebra to optics. Arabic was the language of international scholarship.

The knowledge gap that is now being narrowed is between Arabs and the West, where the Arabs’ role in the development of modern science is rarely recognized and largely forgotten.

And how large is the gap? Researchers from the UAE and the United Nations Development Program are working on an Arab Knowledge Report 2009 which should show how far the Arab world has advanced since a devastating 2002 UNDP assessment written not by Western scholars but by Arab experts.

They portrayed the Arab region as living in isolation from the world of ideas and lagging behind the rest of the world on virtually everything, from education to respect for human rights and the status of women. Only six (including the UAE) of the 22 Arab countries were seen as having achieved “high human development.”

There’s a reason for the UAE beyond trying to help wake the Arab world from decades of decline and slumber, and it’s entirely pragmatic: demographics. Fewer than 20 percent of the 4.5 million population are native Emiratis and the economy is almost entirely run by foreigners. According to the official United Emirates Yearbook, expatriates currently hold 99 percent of jobs in the private sector and 91 percent of positions in the government.

“Emiratisation” of the work force has been a key plank of government policies but progress has been slow, partly because employers have been reluctant to hire Emiratis. Confidence in the education system should help diminish that reluctance.

But the 21st century House of Wisdom seems a distant goal.


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Sure, the resurgence of the Islamic Caliphate has been a long time coming and there are many tenets of Islam, particularly with regards Islamic economic jurisprudence, that could teach the Western world a lesson or two about managing greed in particular. Islamic economics is neither capitalist nor socialist, but rather a third way that in principles places socially responsible investing at the heart of economic thinking. The UAE doubtless embodies such an approach in many ways although for many other Islamic states this is certainly not the case. Islam also promotes a market free from interferences such as price fixing and hoarding (unlike the diamond market), so any right-sizing in property markets is not a bad thing per se, in fact it just makes the UAE more attractive as the transaction costs of doing business only get better. Efforts to re-create an intellectual legacy running back thousands of years will also be a modernising force in its own right, something that has arguably been lacking in many Islamic countries over the past century; Afghanistan being a case in point. In other areas too, Islamic states often out-compete Christian states in the privision of law and order. Go to northern Nigeria or Northern Sudan and then travel to the south of both countries to understand what the absence of security and lack of protection of property rights actually means! No system is perfect, at all, but in many respects the socio-economic model being embraced in the UAE, whilst still hugely experimental, is a very welcome departure from other roads more traveled by.

Posted by Peter J. Middlebrook | Report as abusive

while welcoming arab investment in education, it is clear that neither the words nor the actions are genuine. the idea that you can solve any problem by throwing money at it, is prevalent in the mercantile mentality of emirate rulers and is fundamentally flawed. it suffices to look at the accomplishments of free education already provided. any one can tell you why women outnumber men. because women don’t work. not having any thing to do, they go to classes.
Education is not trade. Conferences and conventions are the result of advanced scientific culture not the causes of it. Ethnic Arabs were not prominent in the “house of wisdom” in the middle ages. Almost all the scientists in that period were Iranians that were being funded with the wealth obtained in Arab conquests.
It is then no surprise that Arab supremacy in scientific and technology will remain illusive.

Posted by Dr. Ardeshir Eftekharzadeh | Report as abusive

Sure UAE is spending on Education. but education without democracy is like freedom to walk in a cage. What benefit the education is going to provide when you have different classes of citizens. you have the Emiratis at first, Westerners at Second, Other arabs at third, and other east asians migrant worker who contributed the most at the buttom of list. I visited Dubai 3 years ago and found ironic that I passed through custom with no question asked (thanks to American passport) while hundreds of east asians were in line to be eye scanned. lets not talk about their labor laws and court system, everybody knows how poor laborers are treated

Posted by adam | Report as abusive


So we can expect well educated rug sellers in the near future.

That’s an advantage.

Posted by Me | Report as abusive

I cheer them on, they have the money, and the will. Just hope the Western world can feel inspired and motivated instead of threatened with Arabia, China, India’s awakening.

Posted by Jack | Report as abusive

Academic education without free thinking ? Can someone tell me if it is possible to discuss the evolution theory of Darwin in Dubai ?

Posted by Nurhan | Report as abusive

democracy has nothing to do with this. It was democracy that brought in uneducated leaders to america like george W. bush. yes, there is a dictaroship in place, but is it still terrible when the country;s citizens are still looked after and taken care of. as the article mentioned the UAE is only at 37 years this point in the U.S history; slavery was still in full effect. yes the UAE has a long ways to go in terms of rights for its minority shias and other non-sunni population but they are much better off than the old, extremist creating “faces of the arab world” saudia arabia, egypt, and Jordan. the U.S “democracy” still disriminates against blacks, native americans, and gays. the greed and lies of the “free and democractic” economies of the west is the reason why the world finds itself in a deep recession and on the verge of going broke. perhaps one should look in the mirror first before trying to tell another on how they should be.

Posted by hassan | Report as abusive

Academic knowledge only is not warranty of quality.
You can invest billions and trillions, but quantity do not asure quality.
Academic and Personal Growth are both part of the Education issue.
Values like Freedom of Mind and Spirit, Respect,Ethics, Notion of Coexistance, Intercultural Dialogue, Personal Growth, Care of Others, Equality, Peace…. sounds so ideal?, so far of reality? Well that is a trascendental part of Education like Academic.
UAE is going to focus on that? UAE Is going to educate the next generations to be part of the Global partnership, to understand that oil is not all, that money is not all?That is a real hope for all the persons in that society to be free? That other cultures ,like Western,Asian, African cultures are Equals? PLease I beg the pardom of the other cultures I AM NOT NAMING BUT INCLUDING IN THIS THOUGHT.
I salute the effort of UAE if they are considering to approach inside Education the Global Human Issues starting inside their own society first, with woman, with free thinking,and eduacation for all their population and not only a elite etc.

Posted by Maria | Report as abusive

those same well educated rug sellers now finance half the trillion dollar debt that our “free and open minded” yay hoos here in america put us in. not to mention two wars and have half the world hate us. oh and let’s not forget the hundreds of years of slavery, racisim, and war mongoring that still continues today. of course the person making that comment is the type of person that represents the downfall of education here in america.

Posted by sidney | Report as abusive

Democracy has everything to do with “it.” It being the problems of Islamic cultural interolerance that are widespread in much of the Arab world. The “Knowledge Gap” will be prevalent in the middle east as long as they continue to persecute more developed western thought. Western thought is the reason why the UAE is only 37 years old and leading the rest of the middle east in education and women’s rights. “Fewer than 20 percent of the 4.5 million population are native Emiratis and the economy is almost entirely run by foreigners.” This quote goes to say that almost all (80%) of any success in the UAE may be contributed to the west. Maybe the rest of the Islamic community should take a hint.

Our friend Hassan fails to remember Shahar Peer of Israel, an Israeli women’s tennis player who was denied entry to the UAE solely because of her racial background. Referencing the fact that the United States had slaves 37 years after it had been founded is childish. Slavery originated in Sumer, or present day Iraq (mesopotamia), also known as the middle east. The United States did not create slavery, it was created in the middle east, and according to the anti-slavery society on January 4, 2008 is still taking place in the middle east.

I congratulate the UAE on their endeavor to educate their people. Global education is one of the most dire and important issues we face today.

Posted by Robert | Report as abusive

If we accept the idea that diversity and tolerance lead to enlightenment, it is easy to understand the lack of progress and erosion of scientific development in some Muslim circles. We saw a bit of this in the United States recently. Tribal leaders were so feverishly beating their chests making war against the civilized world, the end result was a small dark age. People were afraid to express themselves. Now we’re in this economic chasm.

Posted by Don | Report as abusive

It is highly encouraging that the UAE are investing billions on education. Islam demands education. Once you get past the Western contrived portrayal of Islam you quickly realize that the religion is amazingly rich in scientific inquiry. I have spent the last 10 years looking at Islam from an educational perspective and I am astounded by the content of the Holy Quran that deals with knowledge. I have learned not to confuse the religion with how people practice it. Ignorance is detrimental to all except repressive regimes. Interestingly, my western colleagues stress certain values that are irrelevant to the rest of the world. Some of the democratic and equality values they hold dear are not supported by their actions towards others peoples under their control. While it may be currently fashionable to point to recent events that highlight the danger of adhering to those types of values, I would say that there is a plethora of historical evidence that point to this inevitable breakdown of those institutions that worship those western values. Sure there is unequal treatment of foreign citizens, absolutely there is bigotry by Arabs vis a vis other races, and no doubt the curriculum would not measure up to a liberal western university’s standards. However, it is high time that there is some real effort in the Middle East to once again pay attention to Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) advice to humanity that education is of primary importance. God detests ignorance. I, as a Muslim, believe that lack of education is the single worst problem of humanity.

Posted by Selim | Report as abusive

Funding, absolute and relative numbers of students – it’s all fine and dandy. Yet there are more important indicators neither Bernd Debusmann, nor any previous poster cared to note. Particularly, quality of education and the subjects of learning. And the most popular major in Arabia is – guess what? Engineering? CompSci? – nope. Law, Medicine, Finance? – nope, missed again. It’s Islam.
The problem is, these studies are largely irrelevant to the modern world. Ability to recite by heart Mohammad’s sayings to the letter would not help to master the technology of…well, of anything. There are only so many Imams and Islam teachers needed in all of Arab world, and even less outside of it. This skill is not in demand by the likes of Microsoft, Exxon, Daimler, and other multinationals. So the main recruiters to turn to for these college grads with degree in Islam are the likes of al-Qaeda. Search all you want, you won’t find Arab names on the list of Nobel Laureates (except maybe Literature and the joke of all Nobel Prizes – Peace). But you’ll find many, in fact the majority, on the list of wanted terrorists. Read the statistics of terrorists apprehended and liquidated – most names sound Arabic. College educated rug sellers wouldn’t be too bad comparing to college educated suicide bombers.
And while local young men can’t find their place in economy and life, UAE and other oil rich Arab states import most of the labor they need. Europeans, Americans, and Indians take up most white collar jobs. Blue collar jobs go to Indonesians, Philippinos, some other East Asian nationals and, again, Indians. Quite understandable – if a tooth aches, one would go for treatment to a Western-educated dentist, not an Islamic scholar, even if the scholar is the most learned and respected one.
But at least the emphasis on education is a step in right direction. Probably sooner or later somebody who has the power to decide will figure that education should be geared up to employability.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

It is interesting how people relate the UAE situation to Islam. What is happening there has nothing to do with Islam as stated in the Quran and the teachings of the prophet peace be upon him. We should rather look the situation as a UAE issue instead.

Some people approach the situation as it relates to democracy, others as it relates to Islam. Islam teaches that neither the Arab has superiority to the non-Arab, nor the white to the black nor the black to the white. How people of other colors are treated there has nothing to do with Islam. Islam has nothing to do with poverty, ignorance, discrimination or the failure of others.

It is good that the UAE has finally woke up to realize how much they were left behind. Before they even start educating their citizens on how to add numbers or think smart, they should teach them how to deal with their neighbors some of whom were born in the UAE and have no citizenship. That is to be smart. Otherwise, they will get smart on how to continue discriminating against others. According to Islam, people are supposed to be merciful and welcoming to their neighbors – I haven’t heard that happening there. May be something good will come out of this educational project.

Posted by Abdirizak Sharif Idris | Report as abusive

Hey, Hassan – uneducated leader George Bush?? He holds degrees from both Harvard AND Yale. An awkward speaker yes, but uneducated, hardly. Now that he is retired, who will you blame for the continued failures in much of the world.

Oh, and the US discriminates so much against blacks they just elected one president. How many Arab countries would do that with say, a Christian? If, of course many had free, multiparty elections of course.

UAE Focus on education is commendable and encouraging a population to reach their human potential is wonderful.

Posted by michael | Report as abusive

Our western friends seem to ignore the state of the world affairs as they are today. not to mention they ignore the past horrors of their own respected countries. does islam face an internal battle between the extremist and moderates? of course, however that battle is an internal struggle that does not concern the west.the state of the middle easts as it is today is due largely in part to the interference of western countries like U.K, france, and of course the U.S. who was it that decided to partition up the middle east, create borders, based on secret documents and meeetings? the west. who was it that came into south asia and decided to split the inidian civilization and create conflicts between muslims, hindus, christians, and other religions after livving for hundereds of years in peace? the west. who was it that went into africa and decided to split up tribes and again create countries and borders leading to decades of unresolved conflicts? the west. who is that that just a 40-50 years ago discriminated against blacks and hispanics? who is that condoned slavery for hundreds of years and carried out genocides against a native american population in north american and in south america? the west.who is that still to this day will spend as much as they need to on their bombs and bullets but will cut funding to books and schools as a way to save money. who is that ignored the well being of its citizens after a devestating storm destroyed a whole city. who was it that dropped nepalm on citizens in vietnam and atomic weapons in japan. the “civilized” west. you see, you like to puff out your chest and compare yourselves to arab/middle eastern countries and point how you are much better. but if that is your measuring scale then my how low you have fallen.

Posted by hassan | Report as abusive

Certainly Hassan please calm down.
All cultures had and have their own atrocities, so to search and blame to justify is not a way to DIALOGUE and Progrss in any aspect of life. RADICALISM never was, never is , and never will be a good way to Dialogue.
We all are in Global system were Coexistance is vital, Education is a resource for that more because the vulnerable can have alterntives, choices, and hope. It is ot the only resource but is one.
Children must be protected for hate and revange ideas, children are innocent of atrocities, this is what we have to care about, education to less the fear of any kind, for the most vulnerable:Children,Woman, Ederly.
To no use their needs and vulneravility.

Posted by Maria | Report as abusive

Michael, there’s about as much of a chance of Christian being elected in the Middle Eastern world as there is of a Muslim being elected here in the U.S., come on get off the high horse.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

There cannot be a restoration of any “former glory” of Arab learning, as no such thing ever existed. Arab “learning” was expropriated from the Greek, Persian and Indian cultures that were subjugated as Islam was spread by the sword. Islam is incompatible with learning or advancement, as all necessary knowledge is contained in the Koran. The Moslem world today is an intellectual backwater. Just as the vast thriving areas they conquered slowly withered under Islamic rule, so shall be the fate of any lands that fall under Islam in the future. Islam is the antithesis of learning, and ever shall be.

Posted by John Peters | Report as abusive

Islamic economic practices are at times unusual, but the disallowance of fractional reserve banking is not uniquely Muslim. For example, interest was disallowed on money deposits as being sinful for years. Only later was it reasoned that interest is compensation for risk and opportunity cost. For most of Western history, the practice of lending out demand deposits was unacceptable. (I highly encourage anyone to read Jesus Huerta de Soto’s book, Dinero, Crédito Bancario y Ciclos Económicos [Money, Bank Credit and Economic Cycles].) Maybe Western opinion on that will change, maybe Muslim opinion will change.

No matter what happens, I don’t think there will ever be a movie made about female Emirati fighter pilots a la “Top Gun,” and especially no gratuitous topless volleyball scene.

Posted by Michael Mahon | Report as abusive

Congratulations! I wholeheartedly salute the initiative. Men and women are entitled to a good education. It’s through a good education that they can improve themselves and help guarantee a good future for them and their children once the oil runs out. I think this is a good start to get the ball rolling for the inhabitants of UAE, who have never been stupid to begin with, to help them achieve their full potential. All the other countries surrounding it and with whom they have close economic and cultural ties will follow their lead.

Their cultural peculiarities are their own affair, and sure enough they have their problems, but they don’t bother me one bit and to be bothered is to be jealous and/or fearful. Given that I’ve been seeing economic enterprise of the sort the United States has forgotten how to do, I’m betting on the continuation of a strong growth in the region and good luck to them! It’s not surprising to see its leaders wanting to enrich themselves with some serious home intellectual assets in the future.

The United States politicians firmly continue dumbing down their own people by allowing common sense and intelligence to depart the school curricula, so the “People” are giving away democratic freedom left to right for the sake of triviality. Even the UAE will have to look elsewhere for good intellectuals, given the current american “stupidification” trend. Just look at California: Recently I read of a study performed at Berkeley that concluded that poor people are genetically stupid and that rich people are genetically bright and intelligent. Don’t believe it? Google it.

I’m not familiar with UAE politics but I know that democracy, as perceived today, is not a guarantee of scientific progress but of enjoyment of said progress. Many of today’s science is based on discoveries and research made prior to the institutionalization of western democracies. Democracy doesn’t make intelligent people per se – it attracts intelligent people who have made themselves smart somewhere else so they can make the money and fame they are denied in the country of origin. Like Einstein.
A well educated population helps keep mercenaries in check.

Posted by The Uber Dan | Report as abusive

funny stats about the start of the UAE!

Posted by Bruce | Report as abusive

the bigotry comments as stated by mr. peters just shows that a vast majorty of american have been affected by the “stupidification” running thru their educational system. you would like to live under the illusion that any religion was spread peacefully yet the two largest religions in the world today (christianity and islam) were both spread with the blade of the swords. before islam, it was the christians who pilaged, killed, and slaughtered their way to spreading christianity and aftewards it was islam. perhaps picking up a book and learning to read will help you realize that it was under islam that many of the world’s greatest acheivement in mathematics and science were discovered. although religion has little do with the academic acheivements and innovations, there are great inventors, scientists, and historians amongst all religions. perhaps it is you sir, who has been left behind the times. maybe this is due to the fact that in your own country the public education system as been brought down to laughable standards. perhaps it is because in your own society you find that people have replaced watching educatonal television with that of the “american idol”. considering you contributed nothing but bigotry remarks in these comments, shows that it is you that has been left behind.

Posted by hassan | Report as abusive

John Peters”

“There cannot be a restoration of any “former glory” of Arab learning, as no such thing ever existed.”

Really? Perhaps you should go to the trouble and deepen your knowledge of history, past the standard sterotypes. Good way to styart is a recently-published book emtitled The House of Wisdom, How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization, by JOnathan Lyons.

Posted by Christian | Report as abusive

There seems to be a pretty strong “Islam and Education are incompatible” sentiment. I bet the rest of the world thought the same thing about Christianity right before the end of the Dark Ages. There won’t be an overnight improvement from this effort, but 20 years from now people might look back and see this as a vital turning point for the middle east.

Posted by Drewbie | Report as abusive

“20 years from now people might look back and see this as a vital turning point for the middle east.” – Posted by Drewbie

Education alone, especially Islam-centric, will never achieve any “turning point for the middle east”. What’s required is the change of attitude. The turning point “will come when the Arabs start to love their children more than they hate us”, as rightfully noted Golda Meir years ago. Unfortunately not much changed since.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

Anonymous, you do realize that the vast majority of Americans hate Muslim Arabs, right? That’s why all these civilian deaths in Gaza/Iraq/Afghanistan are just brushed by as collateral damage.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

Every Human being have a particular talent, that can be exalted, promoted, develop, by Education.
Art and Education are Universal, Global,all of us have the right of that. The opportunity to have one, in any time any condition, any cultural and geographical side because it is inside all of us the talents to develop. Only need to be put outside to be share for the world.

If UAE and the UN Development Program are in that way, my salutes,Art and Education as a way of healing also, how many lifes can be healed and saved because healing by Art of anykind shared globaly for the cause of PEACE AND COEXISTANCE. One Human Being approaching to another Human Being.
Art and talents can be a resource of approach and dialogue. Share and interchange of ideas and the search of common values among cultures.
What is the goal of Education if you are not capable of elevate the spirit of any person? Education without spirit, even you are agnostic, is empty knowledge without purpose, without meaning, without life.

The person is important. Each person is important.
To whom is going to serve Art and Education? To the Person. There is no space to hate and conflict. Are not compatible with talents development.

Posted by Maria | Report as abusive

“Anonymous, you do realize that the vast majority of Americans hate Muslim Arabs, right? That’s why all these civilian deaths in Gaza/Iraq/Afghanistan are just brushed by as collateral damage.”
Posted by Michael Ham

The majority of Americans probably had not heard about Arabs or Muslims before 9/11/2001.

The only Arabs killed in Afghanistan were al-Qaeda terrorists. Afghanistan is populated by Pushtuns, Uzbeks, Tajiks, some other ethnicities, but not Arabs.

As for Gaza – blame only the terrorists who position themselves in the middle of civilian population. Collateral damage can not be avoided even when using the utmost restraint and the most precision weapons. Israelis showed more restraint than anyone else would in their place – probably too much for their own good. How about carpet-bombing with incendiaries (Dresden), nukes (Hiroshima), Napalm and Agent Orange (Vietnam), Grad missiles massively fired into population centers (Georgians in Ossetia)? If none of these were prosecuted as war crimes, no one has the right to accuse IDF. And besides, Hamas were no Boy Scouts themselves. Israel was for over 3 years under incessant rocket fire trying to solve it diplomatically before starting the Cast Lead.

Please educate yourself.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

Some of the comments on this column are a sad reflection of a deficient education system and widespread ignorance in the English-speaking world. It’s obvious that students are not being taught that Arabic was the international language of science for 700 years. Who knows that Copernicus and his model of the solar system was based on work carried out by Arab astronomers centuries earlier. Who knows that many of his diagrams were taken from manuscripts of Ibn al-Shatir, a Syrian astronomer. Who knows that Newton, supposedly the father of modern optics, borrowed from an Iraqi, Ibn al-Haytham who lived 700 years before Newton? One commenter asked about the theory of Darwin. He was NOT the first to develop a theory of natural selection. That honour belongs to a 9th century Iraqi zoolgist, al-Jahith.

So, if the Emirati rulers want to pour money into education to catch up with modern science, all power to them. It’s better than spending it on weapons and the military, the biggest single expense in the American budget.

Posted by Sulaima | Report as abusive

Please can we all focus more in Education, EUA, instead of insulting the American system …and others? ….can we dialogue?
This is not a Western vs Arab.
These is a serious matter.
Can we be more creative to follow and honor the blog and honor ourselfs?
We can not construct an Educative System in any place of the world puting down others.
This is not a competence of whom was best, or is best, it is a interchange of ideas of the “now” and “here” situations linked to a intention to bring Education in a specific Arab region.
Liked or not the article concerns to all the Global community because we are talking about Education and development.

Posted by Maria | Report as abusive

My good friend Bernd Debusmann got it right, as always: Investing in the present sets the tone for a society’s future. The leaders of the UAE — and of Dubai and Abu Dhabi in particular — are demonstrating through their investments in education that this is an open society, and that although it is anchored firmly in Islamic values, this country sees itself as integrated in the global economy. Like economic development, education is an ongoing process. Education, tolerance and enterprise go hand in hand.

Posted by Pranay Gupte | Report as abusive

The UAE’s education drive is a laudable effort and it has attracted American universities to establish branches there. New York University plans to open in Abu Dhabi and Michigan State University in Dubai. Overseas branches face some admission hurdles – they need to find students with SAT scores comparable to those in the U.S., and with proficiency in English that is not widespread. But that can be overcome as long as there is money and the will to persevere.

Posted by Elvira | Report as abusive

Lol, I love the tough guy, I’m smarter than you posts from these anonymous posters. Especially coming from someone who sounds like a conservative.

Mistake #1 in your post.) When we Americans heard or learned about arabs or muslims has no affect on what I posted about us hating them.

Mistake #2.)A little under 4,000 Afghanistan civilians have been killed in the War in Afghanistan.

Sorry for not taking the time to post every type of civilian killed, as if it matters to the discussion and as if you didn’t know what I meant.

Mistake #3.)I should blame terrorists for Israeli cruise missiles blowing up buildings with dozens of children and 1 gunmen inside when a swat team and one bullet would kill the gunmen just as well? You’re right I am blaming terrorists, your IDF friends are the most brutal terrorists on the planet.

Mistake #4.)This is 2009, comparing military tactics of today to WW2 is silly and downright stupid with the technology available now.

Mistake #5.) Since the creation of Israel over 60 years ago there hasn’t been one 3 year period of time in which the IDF wasn’t either occupying/invading/attacking Palestine. Your line about them taking missile fire for no reason and responding with handshakes is the craziest neocon argument I’ve ever read.

What do you mean by “educated”? Should I provide the sheepish baa baa’s I’m hearding from you that you get from your “educators”, those being Rush Limbaugh/Sean Hannity/Rupert Murdoch etc?

Ron Paul 2012, it’s time to give up on the status quo people, it’s destroying our country.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive


Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

The UAE’s goals and vision for education are laudable. Of course, there is a reason why Islamic learning and science faded out during the middle ages.

Al-Ghazali rejected Greek philosophy and taught occasionalism which is the idea that Allah rules over everything by moment to moment decisions. Thus there are no natural laws governing the universe. This idea alone prevented Islamic thinkers from developing scientifically as Europe did.

The Christian belief in a God who runs the creation according to natural and consistent laws allowed for the explosion of science in Europe.

How the UAE will deal with this issue is a matter of Islamic theology and will ultimately determine the outcome of this effort in education. Let us hope they can overcome the restrictions of Islamic fundamentalism and join the 21st century in learning and wisdom. They must also reject Islamic Jihadism or the learning will not be put to good use for them or anyone else.

What the world does not need is a group of highly educated people intent on mass destruction in the model of Iran.

Posted by torrant | Report as abusive

April 11th, 2009 12:18 pm GMT – Posted by Elvira

The UAE’s education drive is a laudable effort and it has attracted American universities to establish branches there. New York University plans to open in Abu Dhabi and Michigan State University in Dubai. Overseas branches face some admission hurdles – they need to find students with SAT scores comparable to those in the U.S., and with proficiency in English that is not widespread. But that can be overcome as long as there is money and the will to persevere.

I’m sure they will find students with comparable SAT scores and proficiency in English or another major language such as French. I’m a positive thinker and those people are do-ers. They’ll make it happen as the world today is more and more multi-lingual.
My understanding is that all major universities today are connected around the world and have agreements on curricula and requirements for entrance with each other.
Take the Paris-Sorbonne: their Mathematiques & Informatique department is a partner of a consortium shared with the Universita Autonoma de Barcelona (Spain), Universitat Bielefeld (Germany) and Universita Ca Forcari di Venezia (Italy) and just take a look at the institutions that collaborate with Cambridge University around the world: Kyoto and Tokyo, MIT and Peking.
*Even the University of Telaviv has affiliations with many universities in the United States. Funding is provided by FAFSA.*

The money that the UAE is willing to fund education can serve to attract students that have the scores required for entrance into a major college but lack money or simply there aren’t enough seats in the classes they wish to pursue at home and so are left out. It would give them the alternative of studying the same thing and being given the equivalent certification and quality of education but in the UAE.
I commend the initiative by the american universities so far involved in the project.

Posted by The Uber Dan | Report as abusive

Michael Ham,
Here are answers to your questions, and some questions of mine.
“Mistake #1 in your post.) When we Americans heard or learned about arabs or muslims has no affect on what I posted about us hating them.” I thought you are smart enough to know that the first impression is the most powerful and lasting one. Apparently I made a mistake. And the day when many Americans learned first time about Muslims and Arabs – 9/11/2001 – has everything to do with “us hating them.”
“Mistake #2.)A little under 4,000 Afghanistan civilians have been killed…” You asked, and I replied about Arabs killed in Afghanistan. Read previous posts carefully. The Arabs killed in Afghanistan were all al-Qaeda jihadis.
“Mistake #3.)I should blame terrorists for Israeli cruise missiles blowing up buildings…” Israel has only a limited number of submarine-based cruise missiles, and they’re too valuable to be used against Hamas. Not a single one of them was used. In Gaza the projectiles used against building were Hellfire rockets, JDAM bombs, and artillery shells, but not cruise missiles as you implied. I only have to repeat: Educate yourself before posting.
“Mistake #4.)This is 2009, comparing military tactics of today to WW2″ – Vietnam was way past WW2, and Georgians (supported by Europe and USA) used Grad rockets on Ossetian civilians in 2008. Add to that NATO bombing Serb civilians in late 1990s. Serbs didn’t threaten NATO to “wipe off the map” and “drive into the sea”.
You pride yourself on not hating any group of people. Yet it seams you are hating Israelis. What for? Did they molest you or your underage boy relative? Spread AIDS? Stole from you? Or you are hating them for just trying to survive as a nation in their ancestral land which is rightfully theirs? The land that was promised to them? And I don’t mean promised by God, I mean by mandate holders the British (ever heard about Balfour Declaration?). Or you think Israelis are not entitled to the rights all other nations have because they are inferior to other nations?
And by educating yourself, I mean learning the facts without bias. Just don’t pick Ahmadinejad or Goebbels as your educators. Try, it helps to understand things better.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

I beg forgiveness for so blatantly copying and pasting the words of someone else, but I find it fitting to leave the link here along a little excerpt:

“The conference location, itself, was a fitting setting for seeking solutions to global challenges. In addition to conference activities, the students visited mosques and local souks (marketplaces); dined on local fare with students from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe, from Finland to Pakistan, Brazil to Latvia; and met former presidents, royalty, and the first Muslim woman in space. The students visited the Palm, a series of man-made islands in the Arabian Sea upon which have been built multi-million dollar homes for international business leaders and celebrities. The conference concluded with a gala night at the recently opened Atlantis resort, featuring music from around the world, from Ladysmith Black Mambazo (South Africa), to Riverdance (Ireland), and the State Dance Ensemble of Armenia.

In addition to the honor of being selected as part of the international student delegation, the students’ expenses, including hotel accommodations, ground transportation, meals, and registration, were provided by the Higher Colleges of Technology of the UAE. The students also were awarded USF Passport Scholarships to help defray the cost of travel to Dubai.

The University of South Florida is one of the nation’s top 63 public research universities and one of 39 community-engaged, four-year public universities as designated by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. USF was awarded more than $360 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2007/2008. The university offers 219 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The university has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 46,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.” tes/?a=1325&z=40

Posted by Happy Easter | Report as abusive

great–opportunity for education for those with high academic ability. but would like to see, when this is accomplished, providing basic skills to those on lower levels of scores. how to read and write, do mathematics
and other topics…should be available so that all can develop to the best of ability.

start with what is offered but then for those to reach out to more and more of the general population who need and want academic skills.

as an american who cares for the people of different cultures to learn about each other, yes, the great contributions of the arabics in mathematics and science needs to be known.

all…persons…and peoples…need to be helped to develop their potentials…from the “least” to the “greatest”…we are all equal children of god-allah–jehovah–great spirit in the sky–it–the force……

lesson to be taught: harm no one…do good.
greatness is when one devotes him/herself to helping others to a better life and they then help others.

ruth kirby

Posted by RUTH KIRBY | Report as abusive

Anonymous, I hate the Israeli government in the same way I hate the US government, does that mean I hate everyone living under these brutal regimes? Of course not, their government is just like ours, their citizens are given “choices” between candidates or parties that are exactly the same. It’s a system we can’t beat without revolution.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

Congratualtions to UAE and Dubai on their ambitions to be the education and financial centers in the Middle East.

There is only one thing I wish to suggest. They should remove the visa discrimination against old scholars. They have a visa policy that prevents exceptional and older outstanding scholars to come and work in UAE. It is not possible for a professor who is over 65 to get a visa.

Even Einstein or Demming (quality control guru) and Drucker (management guru) would not get a visa to come and teach and challenge these students in UAE.

As a leading world expert in my own area of expertise I could not get a visa to come and taech in UAE.

Nevertheless my best wishes to UAE in their plans to be a great education center,

Posted by Peter | Report as abusive

Congratualtions to UAE and Dubai on their ambitions to be the education and financial centers in the Middle East.

There is only one thing I wish to suggest. They should remove the visa discrimination against old scholars. They have a visa policy that prevents exceptional and older outstanding scholars to come and work in UAE. It is not possible for a professor who is over 65 to get a visa.

Even Einstein or E Deming (quality control guru) and P Drucker (management guru) would not get a visa to come and teach and challenge these students in UAE.

As a leading world expert in my own area of expertise I could not get a visa to come and teach in UAE.

Nevertheless my best wishes to UAE in their plans to be a great education center.

Posted by Peter | Report as abusive

To One and All:

I am a university lecturer teaching UAE nationals every single day of the Arabian working week. I am an American woman teaching Arabian, Emiratee men. Let me just tell you from first had, in-class experience: they are neither what we think of them nor are what they think of us(westerners)in stereotypical terms. Ironically, I just taught my students two days ago about Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest and how it pertains to the modern business world. Remember everyone, just because it is not your belief system does not mean you cannot respect their points-of-view…that is the foundation of diplomacy, understanding, compassion and last but not least: education…which is exactly what the UAE is striving to achieve.

Posted by Lecturer | Report as abusive

“Anonymous, I hate the Israeli government in the same way I hate the US government, does that mean I hate everyone living under these brutal regimes? Of course not, their government is just like ours, their citizens are given “choices” between candidates or parties that are exactly the same. It’s a system we can’t beat without revolution.” – Posted by

Michael Ham,
I have my own dislikes of US gov’t, some of its members and policies, past and present, though I’d find the word “hate” too extreme. I’m sure my list of complaints is different from yours, but then, that’s what the 1st Amendment is for.
However it seems strange (for the lack of better term) how you bring Israel and its government in any discussion. What did they do to you? Did that government oppress you, stole something from you, or maybe just decided not to issue you an entry visa? The world is full of governments really oppressive and even outright murderous to minorities within and even to their own. Sudan/Darfur, China/Tibet, Burma, Iran, Turkey/Kurdistan, Zimbabwe/White farmers – the list goes on and on. These governments killed, maimed, and imprisoned hundreds of thousands, maybe millions. There’s not a hint of democracy in most these countries, and many others. Yet you prefer to chastise Israel for just some 1000 dead in Gaza, some 80% armed terrorists, and the rest collateral damage that IDF really tried hard to avoid, but not always could. There’s no democracy in the whole Middle East region with only one exception that, incidentally, is Israel. Yes, their democracy has its own flaws (can you name just one that doesn’t?), but still Israel is a democracy. UAE, Saudi Arabia, in fact all Arab countries are not.
Did the revolutionary propaganda make you hate Israel? Since Cold War times, terrorists like PLO, IRA, Rote Armee Fraktion, Brigate Rosse, and other Revolutionary in name, murderous in nature groups were in close contact and coordination. In fact, that coordination was controlled and directed by KGB. And of course Zionism was at the top of their enemy list, right next to Imperialism and Capitalism.
Or maybe it was in the program of Ron Paul campaign? If that’s the case and he really runs in 2012, I might register Republican (so far I’m independent) just to vote for his competitor in the primaries that is most likely to beat him. And then, if he against all odds wins the primaries, I might do something I’ve never done – vote for the Democrat, be that Obama or even a rabid dog.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

Anonymous, it’s purely based on them being probably our strongest ally and at minimum our strongest ally in the area.

I don’t like that we’re allied with the trash dictatorship of Saudi Arabia, the oppressive socialists in India and I don’t care what our government says they’re also big admirers of China which I’m also against. I can run through them all if you’d prefer.

I’d prefer we be allied with no country and treat them all the same, get out of the UN also.

If you’re fishing for something based on religion it’s not going to hold up.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

Dubai. What percentage of the Arab world lives in Dubai?
It seems to me that the overwhelming majority of the Arab world is under the influence of a bunch of Imams who are grounded in profound ignorance and deep hatred. These fools have no more idea of what is going on the modern world than they do what’s happening on the surface of Mars and so they will never enter the modern world–not in a 1000 years.

Posted by sim | Report as abusive

a well balanced article,
i see some negative remarks posted by ignorant people living in a false world reality, any person who bases his reality from what he absorbs from the corrupted and manipulated media, is living in a fabricated hell.

Posted by kertruth | Report as abusive

“Education alone, especially Islam-centric, will never achieve any “turning point for the middle east”. What’s required is the change of attitude.”
-Posted by Anonymous

It’s my experience that education preceeds any change in attitude. Islam-centric (higher) education will inevitably lead to a general education, which will lead to the attitude change.

And again, I’m sure the rest of the world would’ve thought the same thing about Christianity during the dark ages as you seem to think about Islam now.

Posted by Drewbie | Report as abusive

I am not a jew, I am not a christian, moslem, hindu etc.
I am a member of the human race and the world gets smaller and smaller. I live in the western hemispere and use the library, information for the lazy is the press, sorry media. From my reading the islamic countries have always welcomed scholars and the knowledge that they brought. Exluisionary religions and then the multinationals create the myth of conflict which quickly becomes reality. I.E. “Clash of Civilizations”, neocon shit. Where every I have travelled I have been treated graciously and well. The rules are simple. Hosts don’t adapt to you, you adapt to the host. If this is a problem, don’t go there.

Posted by Aristo | Report as abusive

At some point everyone needs to bury the hatchet. Peace among all of us is the easiest, cheapest, and most green way to combat all of our problems. Accept the fact that we are all here and let’s live peaceably. There is nothing more true, efficient, and simple than love. Enough with hatred and selfishness. The change begins with you.

Posted by jason | Report as abusive

Oh, great! We have an American management professor teaching social darwinism to Emiratis! That ought to help!

For what it’s worth, by the way, most of the best-known “Arab” scientists and mathematicians of the medieval period were Persian, not Arab. They only wrote in Arabic. I refer to Jabir (chemist), al-Khwarismi (mathematician), Khayyam (astronomer and mathematician), and many others.

Posted by Larry G | Report as abusive

Despite everyone bickering on here about who invented what and whom came up with what knowledge wise, the fact is that all the knowledge of man has been passed back and forth between all the different cultures for so many thousands of years so much so as to make a case for the original host of the idea a fun, silly game that has no basis in reality. However it was how the west used, applied and continued these ideas that allowed it to develop this perceived “education gap” between the middle east and the west. It matters none who invented them its how the ideas are applied and used that truly matter. The knowledge structure of the world today shows the middle east abandoned this principle long ago.

I thoroughly applaud the UAE for taking the first step in the right direction of using the power of human thought to better the lives of others, instead of ancient superstitions based on fear.

Posted by Alexander | Report as abusive

True that Michael Ham. It is lamentable that as our dollars go to the Middle East for oil and interest on investments made in the U.S. we cut our expenditures for education of our children. California first, next will be New York and Illinois. It should be no surprise and commended that the Arab Emirates are using their windfall to uplift themselves. Our government should act with such a vision of the future, unless of course they don’t see one.

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive

Anonymous you are correct. Hate is a word expressing extreme emotion and feeling. It is a state of mind and heart well reserved for the oppressor. I can think of no other foe more deserving.

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive

Thanks-a-mundo for the post.Thanks Again. Much obliged.

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