US science envoy: Rote learning hinders Arab ambitions

The US science and technology envoy to the Middle East and North Africa, Farouk al-Baz, while attending a conference in Jordan, qualified Arab graduates in the shared fields as “below aspirations.”

The renowned Egyptian space scientist added that Arab graduates lack skills in imagination, analysis, and criticism, suggesting education in the Arab World relies too heavily on rote learning.

Al-Baz, following the launch in Amman of Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST)–an initiative by the U.S. Civilian Research & Development Foundation (CRDF)–urged university curriculum improvements in order for students to be major contributors to social and economic development.

Al-Baz, who heads the Center for Remote Sensing at Boston University, pressed leaders in the Arab World to utilize the CRDF’s research in solving development-related issues.

“Arab minds are creative, but are in need of infrastructure to improve scientific research,” al-Baz said.

One hundred people from 23 countries are participating in the CRDF's research initiative which the US, according to al-Baz, launched to help young scientists and experts interact.

According to al-Baz, GIST will collaborate and partner with the US in five fields: information technology, communication, agriculture, health, and energy. He predicted the US government will allocate US$50 million as a first phase for “youth-made researches.”

Al-Baz said GIST aims to gather a constellation of scientists, government officials, civil society organizations, academics, and industrial sector representatives with the goal of enhancing creativity, increasing technology’s commercial accessibility, and establishing a knowledge-based economy in the Middle East and North Africa. 

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