GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
Policymaking, global data and achievement gaps in education in Gulf countries: how much data for which policy?
Paper Proposal Text :
The research paper tries to look into the issues of achievement gaps in education in Gulf countries. The paper sets forth an idea that the international projects like PISA, TIMSS and PIRLS could serve not only as means of setting and checking quality standards in education, but as mediators in closing achievement gaps.
Therefore, the paper also makes an attempt to look at the relative standing of Arab countries in the international projects such as TIMSS, PISA and PIRLS.
The relatively poor performance of Gulf countries raises concerns among educators.
For example, according to the Arab News 2009 report, Saudi Arabia ranked near the bottom for eighth-grade mathematics. And among Arab states, only Qatar ranked lower.
In 2007 TIMSS project In Qatar, 7,013 Grade 4 and 7,184 Grade 8 students from 181 schools participated in Qatar.
The report shows Arab states lagging behind industrialized countries in the teaching of maths and science to young students.
The results of 2007 TIMSS results for some of the Gulf countries are the following:
At the fourth grade: Kuwait (16), Qatar (296).
At the eighth grade: Kuwait (354), Saudi Arabia (329), Qatar (307).
As a comparison, for instance, the average TIMSS in Japan in the same 2007b year was 568.
The Gulf states have initiated large scale curriculum reform and the design of new syllabi that will address the issue of the low academic performance in their public schools and on the international projects of TIMSS, PISA and PIRLS.
In addition, individual countries have started the revision of factors affecting the academic performance. For instance, Qatar has started looking at the factors such as instruction quality, study programs, teacher qualification, school resources, etc.
The present research assumes that the large-scale international data might appear useful for benchmarking the progress made in any individual country. The paper suggests that the arrows of influence move and operate in both directions, implying that while setting global standards, international projects base their judgments on identified local challenges in education systems of individual countries. Most importantly, they could be used in influencing national policies to make education systems more transparent and comparable to international standards.
However, it should be noted that the local peculiarities and needs of single countries are not always considered. What might be useful and necessary for one country might not appear useful for another country.
The study conducted so far has revealed one major problem that the Gulf countries face in education systems: the problem is the lack of accountability of education institutions towards public and the lack of education data necessary for policymaking, for identifying the shortcomings in education and for setting future education goals.
Another important finding is the wide discrepancies in instruction qualities and resources available between public and private sectors.
Therefore, the present paper sets forth as its further research aim looking at the needs and pitfalls in the education systems of Gulf countries that are characteristic of the region in question.
The present paper also sets forth identifying the degree and spread of shadow education (private tutoring, illegal contracts, agreements in education system and bribery) in the Gulf countries as its future goal. However, at the present stage the data is relatively scarce in this sphere. Participation in the workshop in Cambridge will appear useful for exchanging ideas and experience with scholars from other countries.