At the Dead Sea: Education Reform

By May 22, 2007General

Jay Nordlinger of the National Review heads to Davos and its summertime equivalent every year, filing amusing, occasionally despairing diaries about the elite of the enlightened of the elite. Amid all the globaloney, a speaker sometimes ventures into common sense, a rare occasion Nordlinger delights in reporting.

So in his latest dispatch from Davos by the Dead Sea, Nordlinger writes:

And now for something fresh and arresting: There’s a lot of talk about education at this conference, and some of it comes from Khaldoon Al Mubarak, co-chairman of the Forum, and CEO and managing director of the Mubadala Development Company in the UAE. I will give you a taste of his remarks, in paraphrase:

“The education system needs to be diversified, in part because the present system is not meeting the needs of the private sector — a sector that is growing, and will grow all the more. Businesses need young people who are equipped for new and vital tasks. In addition, our textbooks are an outrage: In math, for example, fourth-graders read, ‘If you have five Muslims facing four infidels . . .’ What is such a question doing in a fourth-grade math textbook? Textbooks, curricula, teachers — all need to be confronted. Moreover, the exclusion of girls from our schools is a great weakness of the system.

“Now, governments can’t make needed changes all by themselves — they need help from private organizations and individuals. We must take the initiative. We can’t sit on the sidelines, waiting for government to direct us. A number of schools have already been privatized, and many more need to be. We must have more innovation, more imagination, more flexibility. We will never keep up with the world, or catch up to it, if our schools are inferior.”

Innovation, imagination, flexibility …remarkable, as Nordlinger would say.