DUBAI - Arab states could face political and social instability if they underinvest in the education of their young, expanding populations, a regional education report said on Wednesday.
A lack of political will rather than insufficient resources are at the root of the region's inadequate education systems, with governments spending on security rather than education in a bid to control their people.
The security sector is taking a lot of resources. If you put the same amount of money into education, you get a better society, Adel Abdellatif of the United Nations Development Program said at the launch of the Arab Knowledge Report 2009.
The correlation between education and economic growth in the Arab world is weak, the report said. Abdullatif said money was not the issue but rather a fear of the possible results of any educational reforms.
In 2002-2005, Oman's spending on education equaled 3.6 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP), versus 11.9 percent for military spending in 2005, according to UNDP data. Saudi education spending in the same period came to 6.8 percent of GDP, compared to 8.2 percent on the military in 2005.
you can see very clearly that public education is bad quality, private education is excellent quality, said Adel Rashed al-Shared, head of a Dubai education foundation.
We have the money, the investment, we had a huge budget but education is not moving in the last ten years, Shared said.
Illiteracy is a big obstacle in the Arab world, where around a third of adults, 60 million people, are unable to read or write, the report said. Two thirds of these are women.
About 9 million children of elementary school age were not attending school, with up to 45 percent of the population not enrolling in secondary education.
The impact is more poverty in the society, and more inequality, and more instability, Shared said.
(Additional reporting by Andrew Hammond; Editing by Angus MacSwan)