Toward a New Islamic Golden Age
The Islamic “golden age” – during which science and knowledge flourished across the Muslim world – lasted many centuries. Today, Muslim-majority countries lag well behind the rest of the world, in terms of both education and research – a gap that can and must be closed.
SHARJAH – The Muslim world’s past contributions to science and education were extraordinary. The Islamic “golden age” – during which scholarship and learning flourished across the Muslim world – lasted many centuries, and included the establishment of the world’s first universities. Today, however, Muslim-majority countries lag well behind the rest of the world in terms of education and research. This must change if the region is to provide modern jobs and better lives to its booming population and keep up with global development.
As it stands, only one university from the Muslim world – Turkey’s Middle East Technical University – makes the top 100 in an international ranking, and only a dozen or so can be found in the top 400 in various other lists. While there are no international standardized tests in science and math at the university level, fourth-, eighth-, and tenth-grade students in the Muslim world test below the global average in these subjects, according to the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study and the Program for International Student Assessment. And the gap with students elsewhere is widening.
Moreover, research output – as measured by publications and citations in international journals, as well as patents – is disproportionately low relative to population and financial capabilities. Muslim countries spend, on average, only about 0.5% of their GDP on research and development, compared to the global average of 1.78% of GDP and the OECD average of above 2%. The number of people working in science fields in the Muslim world is also well below the global average.