Once a world leader in medicine, mathematics and science, the Arabic-speaking world today struggles to meet the education, health and societal needs of its citizens. Brutal conflicts have left millions out of school and have increased pressure on host countries that are running shift systems for local and refugee children.
But the “education gaps” in the region aren’t only the victims of recent conflicts. Low standards of teaching and a failure to teach critical thinking and adaptive skills have not been addressed for decades.
According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP, Arab Human Development Report 2003-2009), school systems in the Arab world perform poorly in productivity and quality against international standards. Schools, especially in rural areas, are overcrowded and underequipped, teachers lack training and children leave school with low levels of literacy and numeracy.
Although the region has its high flyers, many of these attended private or international schools. Many countries have two- or three-tier systems with only the top tier offering high quality schooling. For example, SAT-7 blogger Nancy says that schools in Egypt fall into three categories: free public schools, language schools requiring modest fees, and expensive international schools.
“Our public schooling system has been suffering for decades,” she says. “Teachers are very poorly paid, work in very poor conditions, and most have never been taught to respect students. Students who don’t follow the rules face corporal punishment and humiliation.”
While the language schools are better, they focus largely on memorisation so that students can regurgitate the “correct” answers and pass to the next grade. Only the international schools concentrate on “instilling critical thinking skills and building character”.
This autumn, SAT-7 is launching a dedicated all-age educational channel, SAT-7 ACADEMY. The aim is to build on the adult and children’s educational output it produces already to offer a broad range of training that will equip viewers with the skills they need to adapt and flourish in a turbulent and fast-changing region.
“Children need to be taught to think for themselves, be equipped and encouraged to question, to be creative and to learn basic life skills,” says SAT-7 founder Dr Terence Ascott. “The concept is more holistic and much more concerned about the values, attitudes and character of the next generation in the Arab world. It is concerned to see them grow up well and to shape a much more inclusive, creative and democratic society.”
“Education and teaching young children is the basis where we should start to promote love, forgiveness and tolerance,” said one caller to a SAT-7 programme after the church bombings on Palm Sunday this year. Children are being taught at a young age to hate the other. This creates hatred, violence and consequently terrorism.”
SAT-7 wants to involve parents and other adults, too, to promote values of respect and tolerance and the growth in critical thinking that will counter anger, prejudice and the appeal of extremism and simplistic answers.
The ongoing wars in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya have claimed lives, homes, jobs and the physical and mental health of adults and children alike. Access to healthcare in host countries is often very difficult and parents of displaced families face overwhelming challenges without the social and government support they once had.
The SAT-7 ACADEMY channel will aim to address the needs of all ages within three programming pillars of Education, Health and Social Development:
- Inclusive, quality education to promote lifelong learning opportunities that will complement the formal and non-formal educational efforts made by governments and NGOs.
- Health education to promote healthy lifestyles and well-being. For refugees the specific objective will be to increase their self-resilience and ability to cope in changed environments and circumstances.
- Social development programmes that promote equality and full citizenship rights for all, regardless of race or religion, and that enable critical thinking and conflict resolution.
Please pray for the development of SAT-7 ACADEMY and for funding to cover new programme, staff and broadcast costs. A gift of £35 will enable 35 people to watch the channel for a whole year. Give now.