Education in the Arab Countries? Part Six

Hasan A. Yahya , a writer from Palestine

In this article we describe the situation in research, science  and technology. Arab countries have some of the lowest levels of research funding in the world. R&D [research and development] expenditure as a percentage of GDP was a mere 0.4 for the Arab world in 1996, compared to 1.26 in 1995 for Cuba, 2.35 in 1994 for Israel, and 2.9 for Japan.

Science and technology output is quantifiable and measurable in terms of the number of scientific papers per unit of population. The average output of the Arab world per million inhabitants is roughly 2 per cent of that of an industrialized country. While Arab scientific output more than doubled from 11 papers per million in 1985 to 26 papers per million in 1995, China’s output increased eleven-fold from one paper per million inhabitants in 1981 to 11 papers per million in 1995. The Republic of Korea increased its output from 6 to 144 papers per million inhabitants over the same period. India’s output, by contrast, barely changed over the period 1981-1995: its output increased from 17 publications per million inhabitants in 1981 to 19 per million in 1995.

In 1981, China was producing half the output of the Arab world; by 1987, its output had equaled that of Arab countries; it now produces double their output. In 1981, the Republic of Korea was producing 10 percent of the output of the Arab world; in 1995, it almost equaled its output. On a per capita basis, the output of the Arab world is within the range of the top R&D-producing group in the developing world: Brazil, China, and India.

Technological development is rather weak in the Arab countries. This is evidenced by the relative position of Arab countries on the UNDP technology achievement index (TAI), which referred to the late 1990s. The TAI could be calculated for only five Arab countries: Algeria, Egypt, Sudan, Syria, and Tunisia—another indication of the poverty of data on knowledge acquisition in Arab countries.

None of these were classified as “leaders,” a category that included countries such as Israel and the Republic of Korea. Sudan was classified as “marginalized,” while the other four Arab countries were classified as “dynamic adopters,” in the same category as Brazil.

In spite of significant internal variability and compared to leaders in the world, Arab countries in general clearly lag behind in technology creation (measured by patents granted to residents) and diffusion of recent innovations (measured by the share of high- and medium-technology exports in total goods exports). On the other hand, Arab countries fared relatively better on diffusion of old innovations (measured by telephone lines relative to population).

Benefiting from research and technological output depends critically on a robust system of national and international linkages among practitioners. Brazil, China, and the Republic of Korea have established system linkages and policies in order to benefit from their national knowledge base. They have adopted technology policies that have enabled them to sustain a high rate of growth combined with a high rate of technology acquisition.

By contrast, the connectivity of Arab scientists within the Arab world is poor at the national and regional levels. The connectivity of individual Arab scientists with international science is better simply because international relations in science provide the means for cooperation. Many of the significant technology-rich industries in the Arab world have been parachuted in as “black boxes” via international consulting and engineering development organizations (CEDOs). However, these installations are not linked to local or regional CEDOs and R&D organizations. Until such connectivity is established, such installations cannot contribute to the scientific and technological development of the Arab world.

During the past 30 years, there has been a massive transformation of industrial firms in OECD countries; outsourcing and subcontracting have contributed to breaking down the vertically integrated firm. Integration has instead taken the form of joining a global web of technological expertise; meanwhile, out-sourcing has promoted the transfer of technology to Asian and Latin American subcontractors along with the transfer of employment from high-cost to low-cost countries. A number of Asian countries in particular have successfully secured a considerable share of subcontracting from major transnational corporations. This contributed to the formation of the celebrated Asian Tigers and others, such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. Few Arab countries have benefited from the globalization of outsourcing. (736 words) www.askdryahya.com

Resources:

– Khaled al-Maeena, “A Report which Should Open Arab Eyes,” Arab News, July 5, 2002.

– Rima Khalaf Hunaidi, quoted in a U.N. press release, “U.N. Human Development Report Finds Arab Countries Lagging Behind,” July 3, 2002.

– http://www.escwa.org.lb/information/press/un/2002/july/3.html.

– Sal-ama A. Salama, “Facing Up to Unpleasant Facts,” Al-Ahram Weekly, July 11-17, 2002.

– Thomas L. Friedman, “Arabs at the Crossroads,” The New York Times, July 3, 2002.

– Robert Fisk, “UN Highlights Uncomfortable Truths for Arab World,” The Independent, July 3, 2002.

– Victor Davis Hanson, “A Ray of Arab Candor,” City Journal (Online), July 3, 2002, at http://www.city-journal.org/html/eon_7_3_02vdh.html.

– Al-Jazeerah English

– BBC Arabic Reports

Professor, Dr. Hasan A. Yahya is an Arab American writer, scholar, and professor of Sociology lives in the United States of America,  originally from Palestine. He graduated from Michigan State University with  2 Ph.d degrees. He published 55 books plus (40 Arabic and 15 English), and 250 plus articles on sociology, religion, psychology, politics, poetry, and short stories. Philosophically, his writings concern logic, justice and human rights worldwide. Dr. Yahya is the author of Crescentologism: The Moon Theory,  and  Islam Finds its Way, on Amazon. He’s an expert on Race Relations, Arab and Islamic cultures, he is also, interested in religion, world affairs and  global strategic planning for justice and human rights. www.dryahyatv.com

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