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Aspects of Education in the Middle East and North Africa
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Oxford Studies in Comparative Education

Aspects of Education in the Middle East and North Africa

Edited by COLIN BROCK & LILA ZIA LEVERS

2007 paperback 244 pages, £30.00, ISBN 978-1-873927-21-2
https://doi.org/10.15730/books.66

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About the book

The chapters in this volume do not represent the whole of the Middle East and North Africa, as such a collection would have been too large for one volume. Rather, the selection here is intended to present different perspectives on a range of educational issues, relevant to a particular focus or country, or common to a number of countries in the area. There is no overarching theme beyond that which is common to most of the countries in this area; such as modernity versus tradition; the spread of education effecting sociological changes - most pronounced in the rural and tribal areas; the changing fortunes and roles of women; the aspiration and expectation of youth; and the state having become the major player in providing education. These are all shared by most of the countries represented here.

Contents

 

Acknowledgements, 7

Colin Brock & Lila Zia Levers. Introduction, 9

Barbara Freyer Stowasser. The Qur’an and Women’s Education: patriarchal interpretations of Sura 4:34 and their unreading by educated Muslim women, 21

Serra Kirdar. The Impact of Educational Empowerment on Women in the Arab World, 39

Sally Findlow. Women, Higher Education and Social Transformation in the Arab Gulf, 57

Andre Elias Mazawi. Besieging the King’s Tower? En/Gendering Academic Opportunities in the Gulf Arab States, 77

Golnar Mehran. Religious Education of Muslim and Non-Muslim Schoolchildren in the Islamic Republic of Iran, 99

Iran Mohammadi-Heuboeck. Aspects of Bilingualism in Iranian Kurdish Schoolchildren, 127

Yossi Dahan & Yossi Yonah. Israel’s Education System: equality of opportunity – from nation building to neo-liberalism, 141

Richard Ratcliffe. The Moment of Education: the politics of education among the Negev Bedouin, Israel, 163

Bilal Fouad Barakat. The Struggle for Palestinian National Education Past and Present, 185

Abdelkader Ezzaki. Formal Schooling in Morocco: the hopes and challenges of the current educational reform, 209

Ayse Kok. Computerising Turkey’s Schools, 223

Notes on Contributors, 237

Introduction

We are happy, that amongst the education systems and issues covered in this study, we have been able to include contributions concerning Israel in general, the Negev Bedouin within Israel, and Palestine. All too often, Israel and issues related to it, has been excluded from Middle Eastern collections, while Palestine suffers from not yet technically being a state and with many of its people internally or externally dislocated in more than just a spatial sense. Other countries and issues represented are: Iran, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Algeria. In this volume, connections between the role of education and women, their position and increasing visibility in non-traditional roles inform four of the chapters. Two such chapters (Finlaw and Mazawi) focus on higher education and the empowerment of women as they become key players in the socio-economic changes that are transforming their countries in the Gulf region. Another investigates the role of education in bringing about cultural change and fostering leadership amongst a select group of powerful ‘first generation professional’ Arab, Muslim women (Kirdar). These three chapters illustrate extremely varied fortunes as between the different groups and individuals who are the subjects of each piece of research, ranging from the cultural and institutional constraints on women within the Saudi Arabia tertiary sector to the beneficial effects of having experienced and retained complementary aspects of Islam and western education.

We commence the collection, however, with the contribution of Babara Stowasser (The Qur’an and Women’s Education: patriarchal interpretations of Sura 4:34 and their un-reading by educated Muslim women) which examines the general perception of Islam as a religion that accords an inferior position to women. The Qur’an is often quoted to support this position, especially the Sura 4: 34 in which the treatment of women appears. This first chapter examines the reaction of modern educated, Muslim female university students to this Sura and its interpretation by Islamic scholars. She describes her experience of teaching traditional and modern Qur’anic exegesis (Tafsir ) literature at Georgetown University and the role it plays in the educational experience of modern educated religiously-minded Muslim women. She states that most of the students in her seminars were female, and active in ‘rethinking Islam’. Some were foreign students, and many others first or second generation immigrants to the USA. Her course centred on the study of Arab Tafsir literature in chronological order, as well as focusing on specific Quranic themes for textual comparison, such as issues of gender, for example the men’s ‘guardianship’ over women, which appears in the Sura 4: 34. She goes on to examine the classical interpretation of Sura 4: 34, through the writings of al-Tabari and al-Baydawi and other pre-modern Arab Sunni scholars, and describes the reaction of her students to the classical interpretations of Sura 4: 34, in which male superiority and supremacy is emphasised, as being ‘uniformly negative’. She also examines the modern scholars (from Abduh, 1905, Rida, 1935, to al-Rahman, 1988), and the work of women scholars in the second half of the 20th century. She indicates that unlike the earlier pioneers among female religious scholars, most of the contemporary women writers are ‘engaged in an effort to ‘unread’ patriarchal interpretations of the Qur’an’. They consider that in the area of Tafsir women’s contribution is essential to opening up the Islamic discourse on gender as a whole and that ‘feminism’ ‘within the context of Islam can provide the only path to empowerment and liberation that avoids the challenging the whole culture’. She touches on the works of Muslim women scholars who at present live in the West and write in English, such as Amina Wadud, Asma barlas, Reffat Hassan, and Nimat Hafez Barazangi. These and other ‘activist scholars’, she points out, often question or even reject being identified as ‘feminists’ as they consider this term to apply to women in the West who are secularist while fighting male domination. Nevertheless, Stawasser say: ‘there is a liberationist tenor to their work that perhaps does merit use of the epithet between women’s rights and democracy, human rights and economic justice, and it is thus conceived as the absolute antithesis to the patriarchal, paternalistic and hierarchical framings of the pre-modern Tafsir’. She ends the chapter by giving the internet sites where Qur’an and gender are discussed, and concludes that ‘the whole of Sura 4: 34 is at present a regular staple in this new world of electronic communications, and that the verse’s electronic interpretations tend to reflect the new hermeneutics of gender-equal readings of the Qur’an’.

The contribution of Serra Kirdar's The Impact of Educational Empowerment on Women in the Arab World, based on a larger piece of research, illustrates just how far some Arab women have travelled along the emancipation route. Although the record is extremely varied she has been able to find remarkable cases of outstanding success in a variety of country contexts : Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Morocco, Egypt and Jordan. The author is not concerned, however, only with a single cultural context, rather she is examining the effects of a dual religious-cultural experience, what she terms ‘the merging of cultural traditionalism and modernity within individuals. They represent Arab professional female role models, having ‘used their educational experiences to redefine their own identities and engender changes’. She places this initially in a global as well as regional perspective and emphasises the significance of female educational development for development overall. However, in the Arab social context, opportunity for women are still class related, nonetheless, those who have a voice are using it more to challenge more the status quo. Indeed ‘many women who have aligned themselves with the Islamic revival movement in different Arab countries have gone to considerable lengths to proclaim their independent initiatives’. For it is traditional social norms rather than religious regulation that constrain educated women from fully utilising their knowledge and skills. This, Kirdar comment, is not basically different from the Western societies where ‘the glass ceiling’ certainly still exists.

The high achieving respondents to Kirdar’s interviews indicated that while they had been given opportunities to succeed, they had to do so in a spectacular way, and then once in a key professional position they tended to feel isolated because of gender. But they did not, as Western women have tended to do ‘abandon the feminine in order to ascertain the masculine’. All interviewees believed that, further change and opportunity is inevitable but will take time.

Kirdar moves on to consider the issue of ‘a female empowerment’, possibly partly due to the break through of the generational band she had interviewed, these are elite women, but what about the growing and emerging middle classes? They are looking for a new way, but not necessarily the Western way. They are setting new bench marks and assisting the new middle class Arab men to progress as well.

Sally Findlow’s chapter on Women, Higher Education and Social Transformation in the Arab Gulf looks at how a particular group of Arab women are engaging with rapidly expanding higher education opportunities at home and abroad, and conceptualising this engagement as part of wider regional project of social change. Set in a historical context and against broader discussions about the social functions and gendered inequalities of higher education, it challenges over simplistic stereotypes of the opportunities available to Arab, particularly Arab Gulf, women. It draws on policy analysis and the first hand accounts of local women to describe how the UAE higher education system interacts with issues of tradition, modernity, religion and family to produce complex patterns of aspiration, empowerment and tension among young women.

The marginalisation of women in higher education is addressed, so while in absolute number there has clearly been an increase, the fields of study in which the majority of women are engaged are fairly limited and circumscribed. Nonetheless, Findlow shows this is not uncommon in global perspective.

The Gulf States are the focus of this study and were, even by regional standard, slow starter in development terms, though for at least two decades public rhetoric has extolled the social roles of women. In some instances certain devices have been used to deal with traditional considerations such as locating a new campus for women miles in land from the main centre or offering distance learning modes. One impressing feature is the apparent success in attracting large numbers of women to technical education.

Sally Findlow summarises this situation as a ‘feminist/internationalist orientation, constrained only by residue social conservatism. She interviewed female university students and found that enrolling in higher education was often seen as an alternative to merely staying home. It is at least an option available to women, even if, as yet, to only a few in the border female themes. However, barriers to utilising qualification and experience in higher education are wide spread, the marriage imperative being the foremost. As Findlow puts it ‘Economics, life style and status are all involved in this mismatch. The more educated the woman is the higher her bride-price’. She also found that mothers are encouraging their daughters to enrol in higher education and once there to be careful to conform to traditional lifestyle. So it would appear that social adjustment to increased opportunities is under way and the voices of educated women in the Gulf are beginning to be heard.

Andre Mazawi (Besieging the King’s Tower: en/gendering academic opportunities in the Gulf Arab States) is also concerned with women’s higher education opportunities in Gulf Arab States. As he points out, women constitute more than 75 per cent of all higher education students, but less than 30 per cent of Faulty members. Furthermore their presence in both regards is highly concentrated in certain disciplinary fields. He refers to them, despite their number as : ‘a subordinate and politically weakened social group. Their situation is not assisted by their issues being marginalised in the literature - hence the significance of the chapter in this volume by Mazawi and Finlow. This chapter concentrates on the main issues: a) a ‘spatial political economy of academic opportunities; b) ‘globalisation and the privatisation of emancipation’; c) ‘academic opportunities as topographies of struggle’, the First of the three concentrates on Saudi Arabia, concluding that: ‘women are generally not allocated to disciplinary fields which are either associated with Saudi Arabia’s industry and technology or with the production of religious knowledge’. The second is non Gulf-oriented in a wider sense, and concludes that the promotion of women in Gulf higher that the position of women in Gulf higher education is: ‘an emblematic representation of a cultural product of modernity and renaissance endorsed and promoted by a benevolent state. The third focus is on women’s increased activism in post Gulf-war social debate. Overall the picture is one of struggle to gain the maximum possible benefit from such liberalisation as has occurred. Mazawi’s overall conclusion is that it is not yet clear how the increased participation of Gulf women in academia will be able to relate to the resolution of issues of social justice, fairness and equity in the wider societies.

Another focus within this collection is Iran, a complex country, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual. One particular feature is the multi-faith nature of the population – while the vast majority are Shi’i Muslims, remainder are Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians. These aspects of Iranian plural society are examined in the two chapters on that country. Iran was declared an Islamic Republic in 1979 and Iranian schools have ever since aimed at creating pious and politicised school children, because the aim of the Islamic leaders since the Revolution, has been to create politically aware and devout Muslim citizens. The education system has been regarded as the principle instrument through which this was to be achieved. In the aftermath of the Revolution, a major revision of school textbooks took place. Islamic themes, references to Islamic personalities, and episodes in the history of Islam were introduced into the majority of school texts, especially those of the humanity subjects. Religious studies itself came to form a major part of the curriculum. Given the overtly Islamic nature of the education system, it may be asked how the minority faiths fair within it? The answer to this question we find in the chapter by Golnar Mehran, on Religious Education of Muslim and Non-Muslim Schoolchildren in the Islamic Republic of Iran. She points out that Iran has a predominantly Muslim population the majority of which are Shi’i. It does also contain minorities who practice other faiths, mainly Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism, these being the only other ‘officially recognised’ religions in the country.

The system of education in Iran, since the establishment of a modern system of education in the first half of the twentieth century, has been highly centralised and this is still the case under the Islamic Republic. There is a standard curriculum throughout the country and teachers are trained in state-sponsored teacher training centres. The textbooks are also uniform throughout the country, with the exception of religious textbooks. The Ministry Education prints separate religious textbooks for the Muslim and non-Muslim schoolchildren between ages of 7-16, the period of formal compulsory schooling.

The purpose of Mehran’s study is two-fold: to identify the goals of state religious education, and to determine whether these are intended to bring unity or disunity among the different faiths. Hence, she undertakes an in-depth study of religious education in schools by examining the pictorial and textual contents of religious education textbooks during the 2004-2005 academic year for both Muslim and non-Muslim students. She addresses the following themes: how religious diversity is treated in the textbooks; messages conveyed to students of different faiths; and the similarities and dissimilarities of religious education for the majority and minority faiths. Her finding reveals that state religious education aims at bringing about unity rather than division, by emphasising ‘commonalities’ and ignoring dissimilarities, among monotheist religions. Another of her findings is that religious education in Iranian schools is also characterised by a policy of silence that deliberately excludes potentially divisive issues, and avoids acknowledging and addressing the religious diversity that exists in contemporary Iranian society.

Another prime characteristic of Iran is its multi-ethnic and multi lingual composition, and in this study, Iran Mohammadi-Hueboeck examines the question of ethnicity, language, and identity through impacts on the Iranian Kurds in contemporary Iran. In the chapter on the Aspects of Bilingualism in Iranian Kurdish Schoolchildren she begins by listing the Iranian ethnic groups, all with their different languages, and points out that the Persians, Azeris and the Kurds comprise the largest groups. The question then arises, given the highly centralised nature of the state and its education system, and the emphasis on Persian as the language of instruction in schools and communication in local and national administrative structures, how is this multi-lingual factor accommodated? She examines this question by focusing on a case study of the Iranian Kurds with particular reference to the new generation of Kurdish youth. With the establishment of a modern centralised state under Reza Shah (1925-41) and the aim of creating a unified country, the Persian language became the official language and school textbooks came to be published only in Persian. Mohammedi-Heuboeck argues that this development put Persian, ‘in close contact with a variety of regional languages, giving rise to politically motivated situation of bilinguilism throughout the country’. After the Revolution of 1979 the ethnic peoples of Iran hoped for a certain amount of autonomy especially with regard to their language and culture. But under the Islamic Republic this was not to be. Despite many debates and discussion, as well as the official recognition (article XV of the Constitution) of the right of the minorities to teaching in their own language, Persian remains the language of instruction in Iranian schools. Mohammadi-Heuboeck traces the long periods of struggle by the Kurds for the right to receive education in their own language, and examines the impact of a centralised school system on the new generation of Kurdish youth, she writes: ‘the dynamic of identification of the new generation is not the same as it used to be for the previous generation, socialised mainly within the family circle’; school life forms a considerable part of the Kurdish youth experience and the family circle is no longer the only place of the identity and cultural references.

Mohammedi-Huebock goes on to examine the changing attitude of even the older generation to the dual linguistic identity and the increasing acceptance of Persian as the ‘language of our children’, even though in many cases their own knowledge of Persian is rather poor. This has become even more widespread under the Islamic Republic as result of the increase in the population and the Islamic Republic’s drive to increase literacy. Therefore the transmission of the Kurdish language is gradually on the decline, and the young generations’ linguistic identity is oriented more and more towards Persian, the official language. As a consequence, not only has a conflict been created within the Kurdish communities, but also between its rural and urban areas – the urban increasingly becoming Persian speaking and therefore regarded as educated, and the rural still dominated by Kurdish and regarded as backward. She states that this stigmatised stereotype of the Kurdish language can be seen in schoolchildren who regard Kurdish as the language of farmers and therefore there is no reason for them who are urban livers to speak it. This attitude by most of the younger generation to the language is also applies to the Kurdish culture itself, which is regarded as dispensable and no longer relevant to a modern Persian speaking society. The fact that they speak Persian as their first language is seen as a sign of modernity and social prestige.

She further analyses the sociolinguistic interaction of the young or middle aged parents, from different socioeconomic backgrounds with their children. The parents ambitions for their children to climb the social ladder influences their attitude to Persian, to the extent of adopting it as the language of communication in the home, even to young children, so as to prepare them for school and interaction with their peers. Her contact with families in the Kurdish communities gives her an insight into the complexity of their lives in the face of the interplay between the old linguistic aspirations and the requirements of the socioeconomic dynamics in today’s Iran. She examines the conflict that the young experience in this cultural duality. The majority of the youth, who have assimilated the national identity by speaking Persian, either in a local or Tehrani accent, like to conceal their Kurdish origin, but nevertheless live under the constant threat that their Kurdish origin might be revealed in public. The feeling of discomfort and shame towards their parents or their family who may not speak the Persian language well is common among them, and they put much effort into concealing their parents’ Kurdish identity.

Mohammadi-Heurback points out that this crisis of identity, is not only limited to Kurdish children speaking Persian, but also extends to the children speaking Kurdish itself. The experience of being Kurdish in school where Persian language and culture is dominant, has resulted in the emergence of ethnic nationalism amongst some of the new generation. They regard the institution of school as a symbol of political domination by the State in the Kurdish area. Fear of loss of their Kurdish identity creates either passive or active antagonism towards the central government. They wish to be recognised as Kurds and strongly believe that Kurdish language and literature should also form part of the curriculum along with other subjects. She concludes that this can only be achieved if the article XV of the Constitution, granting the right to the minorities to be taught in their own language is realised in practice.

Yossi Dahan & Yossi Yonah in their chapter on Israel’s Education System: equality of opportunity - from nation building to neo-liberalism, begin by stating that the value of equal opportunity has always been the guiding principle of the founders as well the prominent political leaders of the state of Israel in formulation and implementation of public policies in the sphere of education. This value was also regarded as essential for realisation of a cohesive society and creation of solidarity among the members of the emerging new Jewish state the geographical origins of which are extremely diverse. They go on to pose the questions: ‘how has this value fared in Israel’s education system over the years’, and ‘to what extent does it receive meaningful expression in Israel’s education policies?’ They begin by examining the State Education Act of 1953, which formally nationalised Israel’s education system. This was to provide equal opportunity and equal treatment for children regardless of their ethnic origins and social background. However, in practice, this was not the actual outcome: Dahan and Yohan maintain that from the outset ‘geographical segregation and systematic discrimination against various social groups’ took place. This was seen in areas such as allocation of resources, teaching personnel, and school curriculum. The severest form of discrimination was against the Arab children. The Israeli Arab citizens lived under the military rule that followed the establishment of the state of Israel, and their children were allocated to segregated schools and severely discriminated against in allocation of resources. In the case of the other Israeli citizens, Mizrahi and Ashkenazi Jews, the pattern of geographical segregation in their lives was upheld by the education system. Most of the Mizrahi children attended poorly equipped schools with low academic achievements, while Ashkenazi children whose parents were mainly of European origin attended privileged schools, with high quality teaching and facilities, preparing the pupils for higher education and consequently a privilege position in the society. Therefore, they state ‘the education system has generally resulted in reproducing existing patterns of geographical segregation and structural inequalities between Mizrahi and Ashkenazi children, thus practically creating two educational sub-systems characterised by a display of material conditions and different school curricula’. Hence, this led to emergence of wide scholastic gaps among children belonging to different social groups, which became a worrying factor for the education policy makers who perceive it as ‘undermining attempts to cultivate a cohesive Jewish community’. Dahan & Yonah proceed to focus on the reforms that were initiated to remedy the initial shortcomings of the education system, the two most important being: the Integration Reform, implemented in 1968 and the ‘Dovrat Reform’, endorsed by the government in 2005. Both reforms, they state, despite their different ideological and political nature, ‘ decree that educational policies are desirable only to the extent that they significantly contribute to the realisation of the value of equal opportunity’. According to this value, every child irrespective of social background, including nationality, ethnicity, race, gender, family milieu and economic status, should be granted educational opportunities. They show that both these reforms fail to implement the ‘principle of educational equality of opportunity’, considered ‘one of the main constitutive building blocks of Israel’s state ideology’. Though, they meet the aim of creating a strong national Jewish identity by adopting a strong nationalistic curriculum which rules out any reference to multiculturalism or allow expressions of other national identities that exist in the state if Israel.

Richard Ratcliffe’s contribution (The Moment of Education: the politics of education among the Negev Bedouin, Israel) is a fascinating insight in to certain educational experiences of a very special and distinctive group, the Bedouin of the Negiv in Israel, who he clearly shows have exhibited a keen political interest in education. As with the gendered chapters discussed above the issues of concern in education for this group reflect wider social trends and problems. As he puts it, Bedouin educational politics was significant in relation to wider politics within the community at large. Ratcliff indicates that the Negev Bedouins, until recently, have been peripheral within the Arab World, indeed even ‘romanticised’. In relation to education in particular they have become politically active. They have according to Radcliffe: ‘come to symbolise the internal Arab threat, in terms of demography, land, security, and perhaps even the existential impossibility for social interpretation. He discusses in particular what he terms ‘the moment’ for Bedouin education: the educational contestation of 1994-2005, including a sustained campaign for the improvement of Bedouin education in Israel, which also brought much ‘new knowledge’ to light about their plight, by showing clearly that ‘the low status of Bedouin education was not caused by ‘cultural reasons, but rather by the unequal material and conditions and discrimination’. This sustained campaign had the additional effect of symbolising the discrimination against Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel in general. Ratcliffe analyses what he terms the technopolitics of approach of the campaign, concentrating on practical issues of neglect and discrimination rather than ideological and rhetorical stances. He describes it as having an ‘integrationist logic’, revolving around issues of development, land, gender, demography and segmentary politics. It was tactically partial, pliable and patient. Nonetheless it was still a struggle and the struggle goes on. For Ratcliffe this campaign, this moment ‘marked the internationalisation of Bedouin politics ... in Israel/Palestine’, with the focus on competing national projects, this transformation is often overlooked.

Bilal Barakat’s analysis of The Struggle for Palestinian Nation Education Past and Present is also described as a struggle. It is viewed here in the context of anti-colonialism and modernisation in what he rightly describes as ‘a highly exceptional position’. This of course due to the historical developments behind the present conflictual situation in education commencing in 1846 with the Ottoman education laws modelled on the French system. He examines the progress of both public and private provisions and access, noting the social class implications, including the limited expansion of public schooling and the British mandate from the early 1920s to 1948. He shows this partiality to be a deliberate policy, with the prime objective being to educate potential teachers and bureaucrats. This approach failed completely to meet the technical needs of the Palestinian community. However, schools were active in other respects, for example in the Arab Revote of 1936-39 when the British responded by constraining physical access - a forerunner of what has happened with the construction of the war in contemporary Israel /Palestine. The 1967 seizure by Israel of the West Bank and Gaza Strip greatly increase control of regulated space, subsequent to which ‘authority was severely abused’. Provision was reduced to a minimum and systematic development curtailed. Such severe limitation raged from primary to university levels. Nonetheless, the Palestinian universities have I, if not de jure, served as features of a nascent ‘rational authority’ for Palestine in supply high level, professional, expertise. Barakat describes how the Oslo Accords of the early 1990s ‘formally transferred control of the educational system in the Occupied Territories to the newly formed Palestinian National Authority’. This enabled the increase of provision at primary level to reach near universal enrolments and progressed through the secondary stage as well. The outcome he regards as favourable as compared with Arab schools within the State of Israel itself, when ‘internal colonialism’ brings additional constraints. However, in the Occupied Territories there has been considerable physical damage and human casualty due to military action.

Turning to the issue of education in relation to liberation, Barakat poses the question: ‘Whose liberation and from what’? Is the kind of education that assists a revolutionary struggle appropriate for assisting social and economic well-being in a border sense? Such tension can also be portrait as being between education for individuals and education for the community as a whole. But there are many Palestinian communities as well as social classes. Only in the universities of the West Bank apparently has ‘the individual’ and ‘the national’ been reconciled.

Issues of identity and historical record have been severely and adversely affected by Israeli destruction of research documents, archives and central records. Through such assaults, Palestinian identity ‘as political, historical, intellectual or cultural beings is sought to be minimised if not eliminated’. Nonetheless, educational provision in contemporary Palestine has helped so far to prevent the total realisation of Israel’s strategy of attacking Palestinian identity. So Barakat concludes that education remains a potential contributor to the realisation of the Palestinian State and its national development.

Abdelkader Ezzaki in Formal Schooling in Morocco: the hopes and challenges of the current educational reform, commences by quoting 2003 UNDP Human Development Report’s figures on education, which show that, in Morocco despite the fact that the educational expenditure forms more than 25% of the government’s total budget (about 5.5% of GDP), it ranks as one of the low-performing countries in North Africa on the human development indicators (126, with an education index of .50, compared to Egypt’s 120 and an index of .63; Algeria’s 107 and an index of .69 and Tunisia’s 91 with an education index of .73); this is based on adult literacy rates and the combined primary, secondary and tertiary gross enrolment ratio (which forms one of the three indices on which the human development index is built). Clearly, it became necessary to remedy the shortcomings of the educational sector by introducing a reform programme. Ezzaki proceeds to review and discuss the educational reform in Morocco following the setting up of a Special Commission of Education and Training in the mid-1990s which addressed the problems bearing on all sections of the education sector. This led to the drawing up of a Charter, which was officially adopted in 1999. This Charter came to form the basis for all the reform initiatives taken by different educational authorities in the country. It deals with a full range of educational matters such as universal education, the curricula, methods of teaching and evaluation, language teaching, and information and communication technology (ICT). He describes each section of the report against the relevant sector of the education system and examines the extent to which the proposed reforms have been implemented.

Ezzaki finds that, despite improvements in each of these areas, they still fall short of the standards and targets set out under the Charter. The illiteracy rate, for example, is over 40%, one of the highest in the Arab world: about 2.5 million children of school age, mainly female in rural areas, are still out of school; grade repetition rates have increased; the already weak pre-schooling system has further declined leading to inadequate language and skill development required for the next stage of schooling. In the area of curriculum change the reform stipulated the integration of new areas of study into the curriculum, such as human rights, environmental issues, citizenship, technology and computing. However, Ezzaki regards this reform as problematic in that it leads to the overloading of curriculum, increasing the cost of schooling for parents, while the outcome may be superficial learning, resulting from this multiplicity of contents. Another aim was to include practical skills into the curriculum. This, however is being achieved through such initiatives as the project ‘la main à la pâte’ (hands-on learning) supported by the French cooperative programme in Morocco. It aims at enabling students to learn academic contents through practical activities. The challenge is to incorporate such initiatives formally into the curricula and as Ezzaki says: ‘to create a new pedagogical culture centred around learning ‘relevance’’.
Having examined each section of the reform against its implementation, Ezzaki concludes that the Charter is a sound document and highly relevant to the needs of the education system in the country. It has brought about much needed improvement in many sectors of the education. But certain implementation difficulties are reducing the success level of the reforms. He puts forward a number of policy initiatives to remedy the shortcomings.

Ayse Kok has explored a very different theme from the other chapters, being Computerising Turkey’s Schools. Information technology is of course making its mark throughout the Middle East and North Africa, but in Turkey it is coinciding with a major project to bring basic opportunity for all. In all countries ICT impacts on education in two major senses in that it requires a certain threshold of technical competence to install and utilise it at all and then once in being it becomes a valuable medium for the development of learning at all levels.

After discussing certain theoretical and technical issues that apply globally, Kok turns to the context of Turkey itself and especially the social transformation of recent decades, the last two of which have experienced the advent of ICT. There have in fact being a number of national bodies involved in ICT projects, but the key objective now is to integrate into a centralised education system. This is proving a massive and challenging task, given that disparate levels of infrastructure and understanding across the country. It is not just a technical challenge but a curricular one as well. In general the installation of technical capacity is well ahead of understanding how it can support curricular development. So two programmes of Basic Education Phase One (1998-2003) and Phase Two (2000 onwards) have been under way, looking to Turkey’s future, including possible membership of the European Union. Indeed, this is a driving force behind the ICT development. But as Ayse Kok concludes: ‘What this would mean in respect of Turkey as a Middle Eastern country is another issue’.

Contributors

Bilal Barakat is a doctoral research student at the Department of Education, University of Oxford. After having studied mathematics at Cambridge(BA) and Oxford (MSc), he developed his current research interest in educational planning, especially in developing countries. He has worked as a consultant on various aspects of international and UK educational development, including higher education quality assurance, education in post-conflict settings and teacher training and recruitment, for UNDP, UNESCO, and for national agencies in the United Kingdom.

Colin Brock is UNESCO Chair of Education as Humanitarian Response at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of St Hugh’s College,Oxford. A graduate in geography and anthropology from the University of Durham, he initially taught in secondary schools and subsequently at the universities of Reading, Leeds and Hull before moving to Oxford in 1992. From 1972 to 1974 he was Education Adviser at the Caribbean Development Division of the then Overseas Development Agency, since when he has worked in the field of comparative and ?nternational education. Colin has undertaken significant project work in the field in many locations in Africa, South and East Asia, the Americas and the tropical island zones. More recently he has become involved in the Middle East. He is the author or editor of about 30 books and over 100 chapters, articles and research reports.

Yossi Dahan received his PhD from the Philosophy Department, Columbia University, New York, USA. He teaches courses on law and society and labor law at Ramat Gan College of Law in Israel, where he heads the human rights division. He also teaches courses on ethics, political theory and education at the Open University. He is the chairman and one of the founders of ‘Adva Center’, a research and advocacy center devoted to the study of social and economic inequalities in Israel. Dr Dahan is currently working on a book on theories of social justice.

Abdelkader Ezzaki was, until recently, Professor of Education at Mohammed V University-Souissi. He has served as Visiting Professor and as an international education consultant in the USA, in Africa and in the Gulf region. Currently, he is an ‘Education Specialist’ with ALEF, a USAID project that works in Morocco on innovative initiatives in education and vocational training. He holds a PhD from Temple University (USA), and an MA from the University of Wales (UK).

Sally Findlow is a lecturer in Education at Keele University. She gained her first degree in Islamic Studies and her PhD from the University of Cambridge. Sally has lived, worked and conducted fieldwork across several countries in the Arab Gulf and also in Egypt. In research terms she is interested in the role of higher education in the production of culture seen as dynamic and mutable, and responsive to social and policy change.

Serra Kirdar is the Founder and Director of the Muthabara Foundation, which was established in partnership with the University of Oxford Middle East Centre and the Centre for Applied HR Research to help maximise the potential of Arab women to achieve managerial and professional roles in the private sector. Serra gained a BA in Middle Eastern Studies, an MSc in Comparative and International Education and a DPhil., all at the University of Oxford. Her doctoral thesis was entitled: ‘Gender and Cross-Cultural Experience with Reference to Elite Arab Women’. Serra was a founding member of the New Leaders Group for the Institute for International Education (IIE), and also founded the Initiative for Innovative Teaching (INTEACH) under the IIE and Oxford University Middle East Centre. INTEACH aims to develop tailor-made locally geared professional training programmes for public sector teachers in the Arab world with the aim of enhancing pedagogical instruction in the region. She is also a Foundation Life Fellow of St Antony’s College, Middle East Centre, University of Oxford.

Ayse Kok received her BSc degree in Management Information Systems from Bogazici University, Turkey in 2003. She subsequently worked as an IT consultant with Ernst & Young, a professional business advisory services firm, before joining the MSc in ELearning programme at the University of Oxford. After completing her MSc degree, she worked as a short term e-learning consultant at the United Nations Systems and Staff College in Turin, Italy. Ayse has also presented several papers at international conferences about e-learning such as iLearn in Paris (January, 2007) and EDEN workshop in Barcelona (October, 2006).

Lila Zia Levers was born in Tehran where she attended primary school, before moving to England for her secondary and university education, graduating in Politics at the University of Exeter. She subsequently held a series of posts in both education and administration, culminating in the post of Graduate Studies Administrator at the Modern Languages Faculty, University of Oxford. As a long-standing member of the British Association for Comparative and International Education, she has presented papers at its conferences on aspects of education in Iran. She presented a paper at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, London on ‘The Iranian Revolution: ten years later’. These papers have been published. Her most recent publication is ‘Ideology and Change in Iranian Education’ in Rosarii Griffin (Ed.) Education in the Muslim World: different perspectives (Oxford: Symposium Books, 2006).

André Elias Mazawi is Associate Professor, Department of Educational Studies, Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia (UBC), Canada. He is Co-Director of the Centre for Policy Studies in Higher Education and Training (CHET) at UBC and serves as Associate Editor and French Editor of the Canadian Journal of Higher Education. He is interested in higher education and educational policy, with particular reference to the Middle East. His recent publications include: ‘‘Knowledge Society’ or Work as ‘Spectacle’? Education for Work and the Prospects of Social Transformation in Arab Societies’, in Educating the Global Workforce: knowledge, knowledge work and knowledge workers, edited by L. Farrell & T. Fenwick, pp. 251-267. (London: Routledge, 2007); and ‘Globalization, Development, and Policies of Knowledge and Learning in the Arab States’, in New Society Models for a New Millennium – the learning society in Europe and beyond, edited by M. Kuhn (New York: Peter Lang, 2007).

Golnar Mehran is Associate Professor of Education at Al-Zahra University in Tehran, Iran. She has also acted as education consultant to UNICEF (Iran, Jordan and Oman), UNESCO, and the World Bank. Her research interest and publications include: ideology and education in post-revolutionary Iran; political socialization of Iranian schoolchildren; presentation of the ‘self’ and ‘other’ in Iranian education; female education in Iran and the Middle East; and religious education in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Iran Mohammadi-Heuboeck recieved her PhD in Sociology from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), Paris, for a thesis on the role of school in the process of construction of identity among Kurdish schoolchildren in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Her current research focuses on various aspects of contemporary Iranian society: identities of ethnic minorities, sociology of education, women’s studies and questions of religious identity in the Islamic Republic. She is working as academic supervisor at the London School of Oriental and African Studies .

Richard Ratcliffe is near completing his DPhil on the politics of non-formal education among the Negev Bedouin, Israel at St Antonys College, University of Oxford. As part of this study, he spent 3 years working with different educational institutions and initiatives, as a consultant, researcher and teacher. Prior to this, he worked for a number of different human rights organisations in Israel/Palestine and gained an MA in Arabic from Edinburgh University.

Barbara Freyer Stowasser is Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, USA. She holds an MA in Near East Studies from UCLA and a PhD in Comparative Semitic and Islamic Studies from the University of Munster, Germany. Her publications include Islamic Law and the Challences of Modernity, co-edited with Yvonne Haddad (AltaMira Press, 2004), a book-length study on Women in the Qur’an: traditions and interpretations (Oxford University Press, 1994), and an edited volume entitled The Islamic Impulse (Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, Georgetown University, 1987, reprinted 1989). Two of her shorter think-pieces appeared as Center for Contemporary Arab Studies Occational Papers: ‘Religion and Political Development: comparative ideas on Ibn Khaldun and Machiavelli’ (1983, reprinted 2000), and ‘A Time to Reap: thoughts on calendars and millennialism’ (2000). The latter is the text of Dr Stowasser’s address as outgoing president of the Middle East Studies Association (1989-99).

Yossi Yonah received his PhD from the Philosophy Department, University of Pennsylvania, USA. He teaches political philosophy and philosophy of education in the Department of Education, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel. He was Head of the Teacher Training Program there between 1995 and 2002. He is a senior research fellow with the Jerusalem Van Leer Institute. Professor Yonah has published extensively on topics pertaining to moral and political philosophy, philosophy of education and multiculturalism.

Related and recent books

Global Perspectives on Teacher Education COLIN BROCK

The Challenges of Education in Brazil COLIN BROCK, SIMON SCHWARTZMAN

Education in the Muslim World ROSARII GRIFFIN

Languages and Education in Africa BIRGIT BROCK-UTNE, INGSE SKATTUM

The Changing Landscape of Education in Africa DAVID JOHNSON

Globalisation and Higher Education in the Arab Gulf States GARI DONN, YAHYA AL MANTHRI

Education in South-East Asia COLIN BROCK, LORRAINE PE SYMACO

Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa ROSARII GRIFFIN

Education in the Broader Middle East GARI DONN, YAHYA AL MANTHRI

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