Knowledge in Arab world to be measured for the first time

The Arab Knowledge Index will use scientific methods to determine the level of knowledge in Arab countries every year

Dubai’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation (MBRF) has teamed up with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to launch the first edition of the Arab Knowledge Index, which will measure the status of knowledge in Arab countries annually. The initiative was announced at the Knowledge Summit 2015 in Dubai.

The index, which takes into account national, historical and cultural characters of each Arab country separately, will not be used to create classifications and rankings, but will instead seek to scientifically determine the status of knowledge in the Arab region, according to His Excellency Jamal bin Huwaireb, Managing Director of MBRF.

After accurate and reliable information is gathered, the index will be shared with policymakers and universities in Arab and other regional countries to incentivise nations to focus on knowledge and innovation in their future planning, he added. It will also help establish a road map for the economic and societal development strategies in the Arab world. This year’s Arab Knowledge Index only includes Arab countries, however, future indices will aim to incorporate all Islamic nations.

“We live in turbulent times and the region is losing focus in the area of knowledge, leading to spurt in extremism and other issues of concern. Qualitative education can help eradicate poverty and unemployment in the region and help establish development channels in the region,” said Dr. Sima Bahouth, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General, and Director of the Regional Bureau for Arab States at the UNDP.

The Arab Knowledge Index will serve as a pragmatic tool to establish sustainable development in the region, he added.

'Qualitative education can help eradicate poverty and unemployment in the region and help establish development channels in the region'

Dr. Sima Bahouth, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General, and Director of the Regional Bureau for Arab States at the UNDP

Unemployment is one of the biggest challenges the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is grappling with today. It currently has the highest rate of youth unemployment in the world at 27.2 per cent, according to the World Economic Forum. This amounts to some 40 million youth without jobs in a region where more than half the population is under 25. Many Arab countries’ education systems are often described as archaic and in dire need of reform, as they often fail to adequately prepare the youth for employment.

According to bin Huwaireb, a group of “pioneers, experts and academics in the Arab world” helped prepare the index, ensuring it functions based on scientific and statistical standards.

“The indicator includes six main indices covering the most vital sectors that represent the knowledge levels in every country, which are Pre-university education; Higher education; Vocational education and training; Research and development and innovation; Information technology and communication; and Economic sector,” he explained.