Basic Skills Rear Their Ugly Head Once Again

Consider this:

  • 31% of primary school classroom time devoted to religion – 20% devoted to math and science.
  • 25% of university students devote main part of their degree to religious studies – More than engineering, medicine and science put together.
  • Less than 1% of students aged 12-13 reached an advanced benchmark in science, compared with 32% in Singapore and 10% in the U.S.

Not surprisingly we’re talking about the Arab world here, Saudi Arabia to be specific in the first two bullets. Religion has and will always play a critical role in each and every culture the world over. But demand in 2009 suggests more engineers and less mullahs, especially in developing countries desperate for bright minds and innovative ideas. By not separating church and state we have a region struggling to keep pace with the rest of the world. If it weren’t for natural resources only God knows what would have become of the Middle-East. Perhaps Dutch disease has really taken root here and a reliance on oil has allowed the religious clerics to maintain extreme control without the need to reform.

Either way, the world has taken notice with Arab youth unemployment at an all-time high leading to anger, frustration, and ripe pickings for nefarious terror cells. It is a complicated issue with no clear direction except that of common sense. But this has not and will not work. I rest hope on Iran at the moment as the youth movement seems poised for change. But these is far from a slamdunk so we are left to CNN pieces showing young Arab rap groups singing about social change while struggling to market their CD on myspace due to government censors. Stay tuned …

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