Saudi Gazette carries an op-ed extolling the benefit of an American-style university education over that traditionally employed in Saudi Arabia’s universities. It’s certainly on the mark, as far as it goes. Very few of the world’s realms of knowledge are static; they change constantly. University professors who learn one set of information and teach it over a 20-year career are doing their students no favors whatsoever. Students whose learning is made up of memorization and parroting back to the professor solely what s/he said, are not learning.
At the present time, however, American universities are undergoing a crisis of their own. Too much of what has been taught has not been taught well, nor has the subject matter necessarily been helpful when it comes to finding a job. The cost of American education is raising some serious cost/benefit questions and the universities aren’t winning the arguments.
Still, the intent of American education is the better, I believe. A wide scope of knowledge across domains is very important for undergraduate students and only less so for graduates. The world is a complex place where knowledge in one area will affect performance in others. Simply repeating what a professor says, in any topic, will not advance knowledge, nor will it usefully advance the student.
AN effective education system is vital to the success of a nation and the well-being of its people. The Kingdom’s great commitment to education cannot be questioned: over the past 30 years there has been a 250 percent increase in literacy and more than a 2500 percent increase in enrollment in Saudi universities and colleges.
What kind of educational experience should a student who earns a first university degree have? In the past few years a number of systems have been developed to rate universities internationally – to assess whether they are “world class.”
Many nations in this region are now involved in an expensive race to ensure that their universities are among the best in the world according to standards set by these Western groups. The rankings are based on criteria such as amount of money spent, number of publications by professors, and other variables which have little to do with the student’s actual education – at least at the level of the first, four year, university degree. Yet it is this first university degree that most students are seeking.