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The Emancipation Gap in Arab Education

Educated Arabs are much less emancipated politically and socially, on average, than their peers in other parts of the world. If Arab societies are ever to become more open, their education systems will have to embrace and promote values appropriate to that goal.

PARIS – Discussion of education in the Arab world has focused only rarely on the role of schooling in changing social and political mores. This is unfortunate, because educated citizens of Arab countries tend to be much less emancipated politically and socially, on average, than their peers in other parts of the world. If Arab societies are ever to become more open and economically dynamic, their education systems will have to embrace and promote values appropriate to that goal.

The gap is reflected in the World Value Survey (WVS), a global opinion poll that allows for the comparison of a broad range of values in different countries. Recently, the WVS surveyed 12 Arab countries – Jordan, Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Qatar, Yemen, Kuwait, and Libya – along with 47 non-Arab countries. The results allow us for the first time to compare the residents of a sizable share of the Arab world to citizens elsewhere.

The WVS measures four revealing political and social values: support for democracy, readiness for civic engagement, obedience to authority, and support for patriarchal values that underpin discrimination against women. As a typical country becomes richer, more educated, and more politically open, support for democracy and readiness for civic engagement rise, and obedience to authority and support for patriarchal values fall.

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