This is the first of hopefully many reflections for a course I am taking for my graduate students; Pedagogy and Theory of Modern Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.
This is the third week of the course and so far we’ve discussed a lot of issues ranging from achievements and challenges of the higher education sector, specifically in the Arab world, which is a scope I am really interested in, to employability of higher ed graduates, to factors affecting higher education institutions globally and regionally. It’s been an engaging journey so far in terms of diving deeper into this field of higher education, what causes or prevents its advancement and critically discussing these implications during our class meetings.
There have been a few things that stood out to me from the articles and resources we looked at so far.
First of all, there were numbers and statistics mentioned in one of the reports that appeared to be very promising and positive. Upon closer analysis of these numbers in class, our professor shed light on a number of factors that go into the analysis and formation of those numbers, which was very eye opening in how sometimes reports use data to highlight growth or advancement of a field, when in reality the growth could only be due to population growth for example. I realized how important it is to critically analyze each number I come across in research studies because the way of interpreting the statistics, graphs or data presented has the potential to drastically change the meaning of them and how they implicate different people.
When I myself read the report (1), what struck me the most was how familiar some of these challenges were to me. By familiar, I mean they weren’t a surprise and I know the region, or Egypt specifically, has faced these challenges for so many years. The question I keep asking myself though is: with all these education reform projects that take place, and all the work (and funding) that goes into these efforts, why are we not seeing substantial difference and reform? Why aren’t we witnessing great things out of our education system? It makes sense that when you put hard work and lots of resources for a cause, there would eventually be benefits to reap. By benefits I mean higher quality of education systems, curricula, research, policies, and so on and so forth.
I was able to connect the dots a little with regards to the Unemployment issue facing Egypt. Turns out that after the July 50s revolution, it was a guarantee that if one graduates from higher education, they would get a job in the government. This obviously meant financial stability and, at the time, good social status and image. This then explains why there was a rise in university graduates during this time period. Ironically though, apparently the highest rate of unemployment is among university graduates. Of course a big part of the increase in the demand for higher education is the huge and quick population growth Egypt underwent in the past few decades. The number of young people in the Middle East between the ages 15 and 29 is almost 28% and it will double within the next few years (2). This is not a small number and it should not over looked.
A lot of what we spent time talking about is employability of higher education graduates as well. This was such an interesting discussion for me, we talked about different countries and contexts, different fields and the employability of graduates in each field, the challenges graduates are struggling with from choosing a career path in which they fulfill their passion for a subject or follow the path that leads to more money, regardless of their passion. This triggered a simple yet complex question for me; why then do we always encourage youth to go after their dreams and passion if eventually they will sort of “have to” direct their paths elsewhere? Why does the media flood with messages of breaking shackles, taking the leap of faith, never giving up and all those rosy statements, when in the end that won’t pay the bills?
More thoughts and reflections on this in my next blog post.
Till then, happy weekend!
(1) UNESCO Regional Bureau for Education in the Arab States, (2009). A decade of higher education in the Arab states: Achievements and Challenges. Arab Regional Conference on Higher Education, Towards an Arab Higher Education Space: International Challenges and Social Responsibilities.
(2) Middle East and North Africa Youth Facts