Community Colleges: Good Solution for Yemen [Archives:1999/14/Focus]

April 5 1999

This is an OPINION page.
Every week, a different intellectual writes a FOCUS on a pertinent issue! 

Bob Sherman
American Expert
The United States and the Republic of Yemen are facing a very similar educational problem – how to developed skilled work force. In the United States the community college system was initiated in order to help solve this problem, and has proven to be extremely successful. The American community college concept, with some minor adjustments, would be a big benefit to the educational system of Yemen.
So, what is a community college? Let us explain.
Many young people graduate from secondary schools and realize that in order to be successful in a profession or a business or a trade, they need further education. Presently the only choice in Yemen is to attend a four year university like the University of Sana’a. They receive a broad education, filled with courses in the arts, sciences, humanities, etc. Within their specific academic major, the students take classes that discuss a lot of theory and broad concepts.
After four years, the students who complete there degree get a nice framed diploma to hang on their wall. Unfortunately many students find it difficult if not impossible to get a job within their field of study.
There are also many high school graduates who are not academically prepared for the university. They become discouraged and quit or they struggle through receiving very poor grades, leaving them unprepared for work. The community college is a form of post secondary education that offers very specific, specialized academic training that takes only 2 years to complete. Let me give you two specific examples.
There is a lot of construction going on in Sana’a and Aden many other areas right now. Lets say there is a young man who wants to work in the construction business. He enters the community college and majors in construction management. He takes very specific, hands on courses in plumbing, heating, cooking, electrical wiring, etc. The student isn’t taught, for example, all the theory involved in why you plumb a house a certain way. He is taught how to successfully install the plumbing in a house so that it works right the first time. He is not taught by university PHD’s, but by an individual who has had years of successful experience in the building trades. Lets look at reality. If you as a home owner call a plumber to fix a plumbing problem, you don’t care if the guy who comes to your home has read Shakespeare, studied anthropology and history, and knows advanced algebra. You are going to pay this guy money (probably more than you thought) and you expect him to fix your plumbing problem, to your satisfaction and in a timely manner. (You don’t want him in your kitchen for 3 days). The community college graduate is trained to perform this job. There is a difference between the community college graduate and the secondary school Vo. Tech (Vocational Technology) graduate. Because the community college graduate has a higher level of knowledge and skill, he will more rapidly be able to move in to entry level supervisory or managerial positions. Please note the chain of command for construction management on the next page.
If you hire a secretary you don’t care if she has studied music appreciation and macro-economics. You want a lady who has a thorough knowledge of computer word processing, can type quickly and accurately, can compose letters, organize your filing system, etc. The 2 YR community college graduate in secretarial Administration will be able to perform these tasks.
The reason we use the term “Community College” is because the students should come from the community where the college is located. Almost all the graduates will remain in and serve the community they come from. The community college in Sana’a is not meant for students from Aden. Aden needs to have its own community college. Every medium to large population center needs to have its own community college.
Community colleges usually offer courses in three broad areas:
1- Trades – Examples are: Building, Automotive, electronics, welding, and drafting.
2- Business – Examples are: secretarial Administration, computer technology, legal assistant, business management, and marketing
3- Health – Examples are: Nursing, Radiology Respiratory care and Emergency medical technician.
The biggest problem that community colleges in Yemen will face is the same problem that they had, and to a lesser degree, still have in the United States – Social Acceptance.
Having a four year degree caries with it a certain amount of social status that at least initially a two year degree won’t have. In the United States, the status of a 2 year degree improves every year and it will happen in Yemen as well. If you have a four year university graduate who has to work as a worker Al Shaybani because he can’t find a job, how much status is that? On the other hand if you have a 2 YR community college graduate who is gain fully employed in a worthwhile profession that he enjoys, what value and corresponding status will be placed on his community college education? A recent study has shown that approximately 40% of the community college students in the United States attended 4 year Universities and returned to the community college to obtain a marketable skill.
Bob Sherman is a professor at the Dona And Branch Community college in Las Cruces, New Mexico and has been for 13 years. He is considered to be an expert in the area of marketing and Advertising.
“Expert means that I know something about the subject and was lucky enough to be granted a visa.” He is employed by CID – Consortium for International Development. This is a consortium of 13 universities in the western part of the United States. CID consortium for International Development, in Tuscon, Arizona, USA.
In Yemen he works under the mot’s print coordinate unit Towfik Soufian, Alhadi – Country Director of Amideast. Through the efforts of Mr. Aziz Alhaddi 2 Yemeni counterparts have been assigned to work with Mr. Sherman to develop a community college curriculum or course of study, in the area of marketing and advertising. His counterparts are Dr. Saib Sallam and Dr. Ahmed Al-Shami. Both are professors in the Business Department at the University of Sana’a. Both professors received their advanced degrees in the USA. They have an understanding of the community college system and whole heartedly agree to the benefits that community colleges would add to public education in Yemen.
Mr. Sherman states, “Contrary to what you see or reed in International media the United States does not have the answer to all the worlds problems. We do have over 30 years of experience in developing the modern community college concept.
I believe in community colleges, I know they work in the United States, and I am absolutely sure they will work in Yemen. The Yemeni people are wonderful, friendly, hardworking people who deserve a better chance in life. I believe that a community college system would offer a big step forward. I am very proud that I can play a small part in initiating this new educational opportunity. Thanks for inviting me to your beautiful country.