Arab Knowledge Index highlights knowledge development

Knowledge Index shows progress in some areas from GCC, but many Arab states lag in education, R&D and innovation

Tags: InnovationMohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum FoundationResearch and developmentUnited Nations Development Programme
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Arab Knowledge Index highlights knowledge development The Arab Knowledge Index 2016 was announced at the Knowledge Summit in the UAE last month.
By  Mark Sutton Published  January 16, 2017

The findings of the 2016 Arab Knowledge Index were presented in December, at the Knowledge Summit 2016. The index, which is produced in partnership by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation (MBRF) and the United Nations Development Program/ Regional Bureau for Arab States (UNDP-RBAS).

The 2016 Index showed strong leadership from countries in the GCC in many key sectors of Knowledge development, but overall, there is still much work to be done in the wider Arab world.

The Knowledge Index was developed as a tool to provide credible data on knowledge, and to create an index that best reflects knowledge from a development perspective in the Arab region, while taking into consideration the Arab region’s specific context, needs and challenges, and focusing as well on the critical role of Arab youth in the establishment of the knowledge society in the Arab region. The index is part of the Arab Knowledge Project, which studies the links between knowledge and development and how knowledge can impact human development in the Arab region.

The Arab Knowledge Index, which builds on the first edition produced in 2015, focuses on several critical sectors: Education at its Pre-University, Higher and Technical Vocational and Training levels, Research, Development and Innovation, Economy, and ICT. It employs a total of more than 300 variables across these different sectors.

This year also saw the addition of the Arab Reading Index, compiled through an electronic survey of 145,000 respondents from the Arab world, which is intended to measure reading practices as a knowledge tool.

Writing in the foreword to the 2016 report, Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, chairman of MBRF commented: “The Arab Knowledge Index has successfully offered stakeholders in the Arab World a roadmap to rely on when setting strategies, providing them with accurate data and statistics.

“The Arab Reading and Knowledge Indices thus become part of the Arab Knowledge Project, which seeks to fill the knowledge gap in our region, enabling our countries to product and disseminate knowledge, and to use if for the good of our people and future generations.”

Arab Knowledge Index 2016

Pre-University Education Index: This index measures the state of education in each country, both in terms of traditional measures such as literacy of STEM education, but also in related factors such as health and pre-school preparation.

GCC countries led in this sector, with Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE all scoring over 70 on the index. The report noted that the high scores of the GCC was in part a factor of their overall development in comparison to other Arab states; however, expenditure on education was not a guarantee of success and many other Arab countries were held back by prevailing political instability. Strategic vision is also more important for successful outcomes in education than just investment on its own.

Technical Vocational Education & Training Index: The report noted that Arab countries face a “major challenge” in revising their TVET policies and better aligning them with emerging trends in knowledge, economics and development. The TVET Index showed a wide disparity among Arab countries. While the GCC countries topped the development context of the index, they lagged behind on education and training, indicating some mismatch between education, training and employment prospects.

Higher Education Index: Higher Education is well regarded as a catalyst for development, and index considers well establishment factors such as enrolment numbers, employment after education, quality of teachers, level of female enrolment and so on. The 2016 report found wide disparity in scores, but overall a weakness in this sector, with only the UAE scoring more than 60. The report said this reflects the overall quality of higher education in comparison with more advanced higher education systems in other parts of the world.

Information and Communications Technology Index: ICT is considered as part of the Knowledge Index in regard to its role in development and its importance to the information age. The Index considers factors such as infrastructure, affordability of telecoms, education and the knowledge economy. The results again showed a wide disparity, and again the UAE ranked top, and all GCC states scoring over 50.

Economy Index: The Economy Index includes organizational performance and human resources; competitiveness and creative development; and economy-related ICTs. The index showed good progress has been made by many countries towards global competitiveness, although GCC states lag on ‘economic openness’ – international trade, and human resources also lag. The report also noted a lack of effort among most countries to develop an ICT infrastructure to support their economies, or making progress in technological knowledge exchange, with only the UAE standing out as a “unique case of excellence”.

Research, Development & Innovation Index: This index looks at research and innovation, along with the political, economic and social environment, and ICT and other infrastructures. The results of the RDI Index reveal a “general low performance”, the report noted, with only seven out of 22 countries scoring 50 or more. This indicates Arab countries are far below global levels of RDI, and while supporting infrastructures have been improved, there is need to develop human resources in this area.

The three-day Knowledge Summit, which took place under the theme ‘Knowledge… Present and Future’, was held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, as well as under the directives of H.H. Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of MBRF. The Summit brings together prominent ministers, executives, and intellectuals to discuss ways to boost the production and dissemination of knowledge.

The summit concluded with a session that presented the developments in the Arab Knowledge Index, its impact on the region, and its results. Speaking at the session were Dr Hany Torky, Chief Technical Advisor at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP); Dr Najoua Fezzaa Ghriss, Main Author and Author of the Chapter on Pre-University Education; Dr Ali Ibrahim, Author of the Chapter on Higher Education; Dr Yousry El Gamal, Author of the Chapter on Information and Communication Technology (ICT); Dr Khaled Al-Wazani, Author of the Chapter on Economics; and Dr Youssef Sadik, Author of the Chapter on Technical Education and Vocational Training.

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