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Kuwait outpaces Arab world in literacy rate BBF holds its monthly meeting

KUWAIT CITY, April 28: The British Business Forum (BBF), a non-profit association of British business people in Kuwait held its monthly meeting at the British Embassy atrium last week. The guest speaker of the evening was Dr Gad Elbeheri, the Dean of Academic Affairs at the Australian College of Kuwait. He was the Early Learning Challenges and Disability Projector Director for the United Nations Development Program; a collaborative national project jointly executed by UNDP and the Kuwait Supreme Council for Planning and Development. An expert for the Center for Child Evaluation and Teaching, a leading NGO that combines research and practice on specific learning disabilities, Dr Elbeheri shed light on the education and literacy in the Arab world and particularly Kuwait in comparison with the United States, Britain and Singapore.

Dr Elbeheri said, the literacy may seem to be a big word but as defined by the UNESCO “it is the ability to read and write a simple sentence,” although the primary sense of literacy still represents the lifelong, intellectual process of gaining meaning from a critical interpretation of the written or printed text. Literally speaking, he went on to say, in the Arab world today there are about 10 million ‘children’ who have no schooling at all and according to his research 90 percent of them range between 15 and 24 years. Quoting the director of ALESCO he said the Arab world has entered the 21st century with millions of them illiterate and this is a big catastrophe for the entire region.

He added, “When I look at the rate of illiteracy in the Arab world, Kuwait does not have this problem.”
He disclosed according to statistics issued in 2005 Kuwait’s literacy rate was more than 99 percent. He added, Bahrain and Lebanon also did not fare bad on this front. However, although the government has been very generous in spending in the field of education, the outcome has not been very favorable in terms of students achieving high standards. Among the countries — the US, Britain and Singapore — Kuwait came at the bottom in terms of performance in spite of the fact that Kuwait boasted of high teacher-student ration. An applied linguist who obtained his PhD from the University of Durham, UK, Dr Elbeheri, who has a keen interest in cross-linguistic studies of specific learning difficulties and inclusive education, also spoke about the non-government organizations which work in the field of supporting physically disabled children and children with special needs.

Director-at-large and an international board member of the International Dyslexia Association, Dr Elbeheri has made over 30 conference and seminar presentations around the world. He has published over 7 books in both English and Arabic in the field of dyslexia, and over 10 peer reviewed journal articles on dyslexia and its manifestations in Arabic. He has participated in producing nationally standardized tests and computer-based dyslexia screening programs in Arabic. Dr Elbeheri was introduced to the members and their guests by Donald Teale, Treasurer of the BBF.

By Paul Francis X. Fernandes
Arab Times Staff

By: Paul Francis X. Fernandes

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