GRM 2010 GRM 2011

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The Quality of Higher Education in the Arab Region,which tools of assessment to use
Paper Proposal Text :
It is noticeable that with time the Gulf region, especially the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries –which as defined in the Gulf Research Meeting website are: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates- have gained solid grounds in the enhancement and development of higher education, knowledge and relevant strategies “based on three pillars…: security, prosperity, resilience” [3]. In brief this large-scale improvement in various regional fields like IT, infrastructure and economy is due to the focus of the GCC countries on investing on their citizens’ self development, human growth, wellbeing, health and most important quality education. This enabled those Arab nations to become independent from the west, prosperous, secure and successfully shift “from being ‘resource economies’ to being genuine ‘knowledge economies’ ” [3]. Moreover, the necessity of quality education, ICT communications through the different network systems, internet knowledge and being aware of the surrounding happenings proved to be vital leading to the Arab spring revolutions nowadays. The current experiences by Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen going through national revolutions by their citizens to end brutal ‘dictatorships’ demonstrate the importance that any Arab country should be living in an academic environment. It should enrich each citizen with political, social and economic knowledge as well as being aware of own rights and obligations regarding health coverage, social insurance and opportunities for quality education, a fact that –in addition to excessive corruption and widening gap between the rich and the poor- lead to the “present wave of awakening in the Arab region”[2].

Topic: The quality of Higher education in the Arab region, which tools of assessment to use?
There are various instruments that could be used to evaluate the efficiency of higher education. First, clarified should be whether assessment will happen at the institution level –private or public- or at the program/discipline level. Assessment in itself is further divided into language and power, the first “regarding the nature of teaching, learning, and appropriate inquiry” and the latter “regarding how higher education is organized and rewarded” [5]. Usually there’s an initial plan to decide upon the desired goals, then following is the real-life implementation -as in action steps- of those initial targets, then here comes the evaluation and assessment phase, where accomplished outcomes are evaluated and finally comes the review. The fourth and final phase the review reveals –by using various assessment/evaluation tools- whether the initial goals/targets and hence quality higher education was achieved or not and if not then what are the deficiencies and how to transform conclusions into future actionable positive recommendations to then hopefully reach complete quality. As highlighted by Hamad and Hammadi in their article, quality in higher education has five possible definitions, so it’s important to focus on one among the following meanings: 1- quality as in renovation –i.e. moving from a status to a much better one-, or 2- quality as in monetary terms –i.e. is the student parent or government, who pays satisfied with the provided level of education, or 3- quality as in satisfying stakeholders requirements, or 4- quality as in perfection -i.e. performance by all parties involved in the education institution is ideal or finally 5- quality as in being outstanding, reaching Excellency and efficiency.
Assessment or evaluation tools are various: Student Satisfaction surveys, exit surveys, Faculty Annual Reports, outcomes based focus groups, class observation…etc. If for instance a researcher or accreditation expert is measuring the quality of higher education in a specific university by looking at the initially set goal or target of critical thinking, here are some of the possible assessment approaches to evaluate whether students have reached that desired outcome or not. One way could be by conducting a mandatory online or in-class survey, where students are asked to indicate the amount of time they engage in extracurricular activities of good educational practice. Another approach could be through a face-to-face questionnaire with questions to reflect problem solving and decision making skills of two groups of students from the same university and same educational level, but one with extracurricular activities background, while the other without.

Finally, financing and investing in higher education as in quality is the essential solid base in order to attain positive elasticity and reach the establishment of stronger links between economic development, rise in GDP, societal equity, adequate income distribution and consequently a reduction in the rich-poor gap as well poverty. Therefore not only ensuring a high degree of quality in the higher education sector is vital, but crucial as well is trying hard to overcome the following challenges to higher education in the Arab region. Those main problems are: lack of resources, low completion rates, inadequate allocation of the available resources, growing gender gap, the fact that supply of laborers exceed the demand by the labor market and unequal access to higher education, since in various Arab nations “low-income students receive a poor quality education” [4]. In conclusion, in order to ease the generation of financial capital to invest in higher education, some solutions are: collecting moderate tuition fees in public universities, increasing revenues through public taxes, promoting the establishment of private universities, raising public subsidies and finally including experts -in the field of education- from NGOs and international organizations like the OECD and UNESCO in the planning and implementation processes of higher education policies.

[1] (2011). Retrieved December-January 2011-2012, from 3rd Gulf Research Meeting:
[2] Acedo, C. (2011). Achievements and Challenges of higher education in Arab countries. UNESCO. Geneva: Springer.
[3] Alzayani, A. (2011). The 2011 Gulf Research Meeting: Remarks. 2011 Gulf Research Meeting. Cambridge.
[4] ElAraby, A. (2011). A comparitive assessment of higher education financing in six Arab countries. UNESCO, Institute of National Planning. Egypt: Springer.
[5] Hamad, M., & Hammadi, S. (2011). Quality Assurance Evaluation for Higher Education Instituions Statistical Models. International Journal of Data bases Management Systems , 3 (3).