The Political Economy of Education in the Arab World

The Political Economy of Education in the Arab World

Philosophy, Spirituality and Education

The Political Economy of Education in the Arab World

Author(s): Robert Springborg (Ed.) & Hicham Alaoui

Reviewed by: Imran H Khan Suddahazai

 

Review

Reviewed by: Imran H Khan Suddahazai, The One Institute, UK

Published by: Lynne Rienner Publishers, London, 2021, 297pp. ISBN: 978162637935.

The text begins with an apt question, “Why undertake another study of education in the Arab world?” After examining this edited collection of 11 papers, organized into four sections, encompassing two introductory chapters followed by three parts. Part 1 includes six chapters that focus on specific case studies from the Middle East. Part 2 focusses on comparative perspectives through two chapters that examine the Latin American and East Asian contexts. Part 3 includes the concluding chapter by the editors, a brief rejoinder to the opening proposition would have to rhetorically ask, “why not?”.

Although the editors admit that the literature is replete with studies on the subject, they provide a justified rational for the genuine contribution this particular edition makes to the field. The two introductory chapters, by the editors and then Ishac Diwan, appear to set the stage for the upcoming case studies to support the argument being presented.

This is effectively declared by the editors in the introductory and concluding chapters, whereby they initially identify the positive developments within Arab education, such as the various attempts to reduce the gender gap within all sectors of education and the increased number of educational institutions. However, they counter this by arguing that these growth rates are not “…paralleled by improvements in quality, nor have they impacted power structures within society with respect to socioeconomic status, gender, or other categories of privilege and marginalization.” The editors refer to an extensive list of indicators, such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), to demonstrate, for example, the lagging performance in literacy rates amongst females. They observe that these issues are a product of an incompetent educational infrastructure, which is further maintained by a centralized governance body that is resistant to change and is not subject to independent scrutinization of its practices, from the administrative to the pedagogical. The authors use this as evidence for the low-test results attained in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science (TIMSS),


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