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ARABS can’t stop wondering about the reason behind their backwardness, and the reason why their schools and universities produce illiteracy instead of educated creative thinkers. They have never asked themselves about making minds and teaching how to think.
Despite being a nation of reading, they are the opposite. They understand that they did not pay enough attention to what the Prince of Poets Ahmed Shawqi said at the beginning of the last century about the status of a teacher. More than 99 percent of the leaders and officials including the Education ministers did not read that poem.
These thoughts came to me when I read a joke about a Japanese student who recently joined an American school. It bears great indications about the importance of the mind industry that we miss in our Arab world where education occupies the lowest ranks in the world, and left the teachers suffering in a situation much worse than even some unskilled workers.
The story, or rather the joke, starts with the first day of school for a new student named Suzuki, the son of a Japanese businessman.
The teacher said, “Let’s begin by reviewing some American history. Who said “Give me Liberty, or give me Death?”. She saw a sea of blank faces, except for Suzuki who had raised his hand. He said, “Patrick Henry, 1775”, and the teacher replied, “Very good!”.
She then asked, “Who said “Government of the People, by the People, for the People, shall not perish from the Earth?”. Again no response from anyone except Suzuki, and he said, “Abraham Lincoln, 1863”.
The teacher snapped at the class, “Class, you should be ashamed. Suzuki, who is new to our country, knows more about its history than you do”. She then heard a loud whisper, “Damn the Japs”, and asked, “Who said that?”. Suzuki raised his hand and said, “Lee Iacocca, 1982”.
At that point, a student in the back said, “I’m gonna puke”. The teacher glared and asked “Alright now … Who said that?”. Again, Suzuki raised his hand and said, “George Bush to the Japanese Prime Minister, 1991”.
Now with an almost-mob hysteria, someone said, “You little filth, if you say anything else, I will kill you”. Suzuki frantically yells at the top of his voice, “Gary Condit to Chandra Levy, 2001”.
The teacher then fainted, and the class gathered around the teacher on the floor. Someone then said, “Oh hell! We’re in trouble!”, and Suzuki said, “Paul Bremer, the US governor of Iraq, 2004”.
This is the natural result of a country that considers education as one of the finest professions. The people there revere and respect teachers who receive one of the highest salaries in the world, and have all the incentives that encourage them to be devoted to their work.
Due to this reason, Japan has historically occupied one of the highest ranks in the annual income of teachers who receive more than $ 75,000 annually, in addition to the great veneration in society.
In Japan, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, South Korea, the United States of America, Austria, Canada and Ireland, a teacher is considered as the most important employee in the state. His position is ahead of that of ministers, undersecretaries, security officials, and the rest of the employees, because he is the one who creates generations, and teaches them to respect the law and not violate it under any circumstances.
On the other hand, a teacher in the Arab world, according to statistics of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, remains at the lowest level. In fact, a teacher in the Czech Republic, which pays the lowest salary to teachers in comparison to the rest of the European countries, is a dozen times better than a teacher in the Arab world.
Kuwait is not far from this bad classification, as the teacher in Kuwait is considered closer to a “beggar”, not only because his salary is not enough for him, but also because “wasta” and parents’ interference in his work almost make him a captive for his livelihood. Therefore, he is forced to give private lessons. Because this has become a profession parallel to his main work, he no longer pays attention to teaching in the classroom due to the physical and psychological exhaustion that he suffers from private lessons.
The goal of education is to nurture thinking, creativity and knowledge, and not just reading and writing. Most importantly, it is aimed to produce learners capable of initiative and innovation.
However, this does not exist in Kuwait and the Arab world. Instead, it almost becomes a mind-maker closer to a “janitor”.
Therefore, when a teacher learns about corruption, there is no doubt that he will emerge corrupt, and society will become corrupt.
Theft of public money, “wasta”, and even parliamentary elections and the selection of ministers and executive officials throughout the country will work according to the corruption mechanism that students learn from their teachers. This facilitates committing crimes because they found someone to protect them through intercession (wasta) and tribal, familial and sectarian affinity, and thus justice will be lost.
At the end of World War II, a minister presented a report on corruption in British state institutions to the then-Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who immediately asked the Minister of Justice, “What about the judiciary?”
Hearing the answer, which was, “It has not been contaminated by corruption”, he said, “The country is fine and we can begin reconstruction”.
In the midst of the war, schools were operating. Only the areas that were bombed were affected. Britain paid the most attention to its teachers on that day, so it exempted them from forced conscription, and gave them the most important privileges at the time.
Therefore, these countries are well aware of the late Ahmed Shawqi’s poem, which translates in the following manner: – “Stand for the teacher and honor his rank, for a teacher is almost like a prophet. Do you know of someone more noble than he who nurtures minds and hearts?”
As for the Arab world particularly Kuwait, education must be reconsidered and recalibrated from its foundation, especially if there is someone who wants these countries, including our country, to emerge from the darkness of backwardness and have a place among the nations. Otherwise, it will not be useful to cry over spilled milk or curse the darkness.
This is due to the fact that there is no corruption that can be combated, no institutions that will operate in accordance with the law, and no officials who will seek to build a homeland. In such a case, backwardness of society will definitely prevail.
Your Highness the Amir of the country, Your Highness the Crown Prince, and Your Highness the Prime Minister, is it possible to pay attention to what was mentioned in these lines, and work on reforming education, from which the revolution of renaissance and progress begins?
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times
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