Higher Educationd and Future-Towards educational cooperation-Turkey and Middle East.docx

Higher Education and The Future of Middle East: Towards Educational Cooperation * Turkey plays a key role in its region and the greater Middle East. However, this influence needs to have a firm foundation. Turkey should develop relations with its neighbors not only in economic and political terms but also in the field of education. Educational cooperation will allow both Turkey and its neighbors to build a joint future. Through shared endeavors on educational issues, the region w
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  Higher Education and The Future of Middle East: Towards Educational Cooperation *   Turkey plays a key role in its region and the greater Middle East. However, this influence needs to have a firm foundation. Turkey should develop relations with its neighbors not only in economic and political terms but also in the field of education. Educational cooperation will allow both Turkey and its neighbors to build a joint future. Through shared endeavors on educational issues, the region will move closer to a more powerful global role.  In the early 21st century, I traveled across Morocco for over three weeks. I later moved on to Egypt, subsequently adding Iraq, Syria, Qatar, Dubai, and Lebanon to this long route. I made sure during these trips that I had extensive conversations with the young people I encountered. I still remember my chat with the youngsters in Tahrir Square and Umm Kulthum Café. The image of a young man who responded to my optimism, suggesting that the new century will be an age of hope for Muslims, by recalling that he had nothing to eat tomorrow  –   implying that there was no need for him to ponder the next century  –   still lingers in my mind. I searched desperately for him when I watched the news coverage on Al Jazeera showing the Egyptian revolution in Tahrir Square. I was sure that he and his friends were there to experience the historic moment. My first impression of the Arab youth was that they got nothing useful out of the education they received. The curriculum and method were outdated and unable to do anything practical to improve their skills or lifestyle. German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (d. 1900) is still popular among young  people around the world. The primary reason for his extensive popularity is his strong emphasis upon change and freedom, as well as on the potential of the youth to shape and formulate the future. His reliance on the snake metaphor in an attempt to explain the change is both interesting and important. The snake has been indispensible part of stories, sagas and mythologies since Adam and Eve. In his famous statement “The snake that cannot shed its skin perishes,” Nietzsche refers not only to the need for change but *   An earlier version of this article with the title “ Towards educational cooperation: Turkey and the Arab world in higher education ” was published in Turkish Review  , 01 March 2011. The after the publication the region witnessed so-called Arap Spring. Many fremds asked me to apdate the earlier article. The author would like to thank for fruitful comments and contributions of my collegoues.  also to the subject of that change. The one who needs to sponsor the change is the one who has to survive. When the mission for change is outsourced to others, the change can occur only to the extent the powerful allow. From a Darwinian  perspective, in such a case change would mean the survival and domination of the  powerful. It is possible to better understand the global change and transformations  by reference to this explanation. Philosopher Heraclitus, who lived around 500 B.C., eloquently explained the place of change within life itself: “the only constant is change.” In the current globalizing world, no further evidence is needed to confirm the magnitude and scope of the change and transformation. The new millennium introduced a new understanding that the world is making progress at an unprecedented pace. This new era has been labeled with bold statements, including post-industrial society, postmodern world and transition period. Everything is changing, even change itself. It is difficult to estimate the rate and speed of transformation. Everything is interconnected and interactions are becoming more complex and intricate. Change also influences the way education institutions operate. The traditional function of schools is to provide young people with the tools they will need in the future. To achieve this, educators have to be aware of the world they are living in. They should also be aware of the expectations young people may hold. However, it is difficult to predict what sort of world our children will grow up in. Therefore, the ability to deal with uncertainty appears to be the most vital skill for the future. For this reason, the goals of a modern and high-quality education should be to ensure students and young people acquire the following skills: The ability to focus on the future; comprehension of the world as a whole; understanding that present decisions and preferences shape the future; awareness of social change, human life, environment and nature; the ability to improve interaction, cooperation and discussion skills; the ability to utilize information and communication technologies; improvement of ability to acquire and generate knowledge through research; an effective and participatory citizenship style. The first four goals focus on thinking and values, whereas the following two concentrate on skills and the last on actions. Taking responsibility for one’s actions and being open to motivation in the application of one’s skills require awareness and further thought. In some cases, however, actions take priority. Skills emerge via actions, student awareness and a new type of comprehension that in turn leads  to new actions. Unless this happens, the younger generations will become a source of trouble for a country. In fact, French futurist Jacques Attali warned us a few years ago: “It’s today that we decide what the world will be in 2050 and it’s today that we prepare what the world will be in 2100. Depending on how we behave, our children and our grandchildren will live in a livable world or they will live hate us to death.”  However, we did not have to wait until 2050 or 2100 to experience the impacts of change. The global winds of change and the impact of globalization have influenced the way the people think and behave. The authoritarian rulers of the Arab countries who always thought they would not be influenced by the wave of change faced this cruel reality. We all witnessed that leaders who failed to leave a sustainable world to their people and take responsibility have to step down from office in embarrassment and shame. I am not accusing anybody. Quite the contrary, I would like to draw attention to the possibility of cooperation with the Arab countries within the field of higher education under the conditions dictated and created by the process of change. Turkey realized the salience of globalization and change long before the Arab world, mostly because of historical and institutional ties with the West. Owing to th is relationship, it introduced dramatic reforms and structural changes. Turkey’s efforts to better understand the process of modernization and Westernization in the wake of the 1839 Royal Tanzimat Decree and Turkey’s eventual EU bid consolidated its determination to renew and transform the way it perceives the world. Most of the radical changes were legitimized and justified within this context. This process of change has become visible in a number of fields, including the economy, foreign policy, education and social security. For instance Turkey, which once viewed its neighboring countries as a threat to its national security, has recently initiated a policy of “zero problems” with these countries, launching a  brand new era. Both sides win during this process, thanks to the strong bilateral ties forged, and start to enjoy the benefits of relative peace and stability. It is clear this new style played a visible role in Turkey’s ability to survive the global financial crisis. Despite these bold steps, Turkey’ s relations with the Arab world in the field of education are still insufficient. While visa requirements are lifted and landmines are cleared along borders, there still remain serious obstacles and prejudices when it comes to education. A number of issues, including recognition of degrees and qualifications and cooperation in the field of education, deserve greater attention and consideration. Interestingly, businessmen are much more successful than scholars in advancing cooperation with Arab countries. It is time to develop firm collaboration with the Arab countries in the field of education. It should be noted that many European countries have already taken action on this matter.  I should note that by “Arab world” I refer to 22 countries, including Morocc o, Yemen and the Gulf states, and the 350 million people living in this vast land. The most visible characteristics of this geography, host to a number of religions and civilizations throughout history, are under development, poverty, unemployment, environmental issues, ethnic issues, migration, violence and internal conflicts. Research sponsored to date by international organizations, including the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the United ations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) underline that lack of education is the biggest problem in this region. This serves as the major source of other imminent problems. High-quality education and human capital Many thinkers, philosophers and prophets, including Confucius, Moses, Muhammed, Plato, Alfred North Whitehead and Jürgen Habermas, stressed the importance of education for humanity. Humanization, civilization and possession of a future are all made possible by education. Above all, education is a fundamental right to which all men and women are entitled. Social development is ensured via high-quality education. Likewise, better health services, greater  participation in social activities and enjoyment of fundamental rights are possible via education. This suggests that education is a matter of survival for any nation in the 21st century. In a world of interconnectedness and interdependence characterized by high technology and enhanced means of communication, education appears to be the most important issue. It is not possible for countries ignoring the importance of education to gain full economic and political independence. In addition, high-quality education and investment in human capital is necessary to enjoy the  benefits of the globalization process. Classical economists considered the natural assets of a country. The most famous example of this approach was Adam Smith (1723-1790), who institutionalized this in his seminal book, “The Wealth of Nations.” Smith held that a nation’s wealth depends on the amount of assets it needs for survival. However, this has significantly changed in the current information age. Prominent economists have expanded their perspectives, concluding that the wealth of a nation is actually calculated by well-educated and productive people. For this reason, this sort of asset is named human capital. The concept of human capital gained further prominence and popularity in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Famous economists, including 1979 Nobel Laureate Theodore Schultz (1902-1998), relied on the capital metaphor in an attempt to  place emphasis upon the role of education in economic growth. They argued that people have developed a set of capabilities and skills by making
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