Public education: dreams and challenges [Archives:2007/1063/Opinion]

June 28 2007

By: Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Maqaleh
The most recent words I am reading these days, which were also the oldest words I used to read about education in the past, are as follows: “The school can change the community to a great extent, and this is a role, which other social institutions are unable to do.” The words produced by the American educationist John Deyo and the results they reached, are restated by others in tens of books.

The significance of what I say is neither a proverb nor a common saying. Rather, it is the summary of a deep and comprehensive research on education-related issues and the roles played by schools, as well as what people expect schools to do in order to change their lifestyle and take them from one situation to another and improving their living standards. Therefore, schools, including kindergartens where children learn the alphabet, are great labs for making men and building minds. They constitute the base of real development for communities.

Since the old times, and not only in our present time, the good education standards have been considered indispensable for the development of nations, particularly the spread of schools in cities and villages. More important than this is the interest in building the mental capacities of pupils, and improving the performance of schools and the quality of knowledge and skills they offer to students.

It is not the product of chance when I was recollecting words of the American educationist Kent too, as I found in our local press amazing reports on the scores of applicants for yearend examinations in the country. Currently, students enrolled in schools outnumber the population of Yemen at the time of the 26 September Revolution. This confirms that the great obstacles and challenges couldn't foil the goals, nor could they control the progress toward reaching the sought goals.

Such a shining and golden picture of the increasing number of schoolboys and schoolgirls, plus the expansion of school constructions, should not blind us against the lack of teachers and the necessary equipment required for the progress of students, whose numbers increase over years. This fact troubles the Education Minister and his Ministry and makes everyone in the Yemeni society be responsible for the educational process. All the government officials, parents, and businessmen, who are able to assist the state in the construction of schools, furnishing and restoring them, are responsible for generations of the future. These personalities are needed to do their best so that the education outputs can be capable of serving their community in the future.

It is noteworthy that every loyal Yemeni should play his/her role in resisting those who call for suspending the expansion of education under the pretext that this will leave bad consequences on the country's future. The real concern is caused by the large number of illiterate people, who have no access to education at all.

Another concern is associating with the poor quality of school curricula in our country that doesn't enable school leavers to be qualified enough and competent to join the labor market in the future. Citizens throughout the Arab world frequently and repeatedly raise the same complaint because the educational curricula do not reflect ambitions of the new generations in order to change their living style and resist defeatism. This defeatism is the result of our inability to confront the external invasion, plus our failure to pay closer attention to schools and their roles in building new communities and helping them get rid of the circle of backwardness and the problems, which backwardness leaves in the Arab life, thereby making Arabs an easy mouthful for the evil forces.

We should not forget that there is a talent in every house and a genius in every zone and village, who are waiting the open way and reasonable facilities via which they can cross into the future and reach the national dreams. These dreams are impossible to reach without a top quality education.

Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Maqaleh is Yemen's prominent poet and intellectual. He is the director of the Yemeni Center for Studies

Source: Al-Thawra State-run Daily