While the Egyptian popular media has unanimously decided to put the critical issues infecting the Egyptian society on the back burner and is instead busy discussing whether "to cover (women's faces) or not to cover", here is how the Economist magazine has depicted the sorry state of education in the Arab world:
Laggards trying to catch up
A RECENT issue of Science, the weekly journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, was devoted to research into “Ardi” orArdipithecus ramidus, a 4.4m-year-old hominid species whose discovery deepens the understanding of
human evolution. These latest studies suggest, among other things, that rather than descending from a closely related species such as the chimpanzee, the hominid branch parted earlier than previously thought from the common ancestral tree.
In much of the Arab world, coverage of the research took a different spin. “American Scientists Debunk Darwin”, exclaimed the headline in al-Masry al-Youm, Egypt’s leading independent daily. “Ardi Refutes Darwin’s Theory”, chimed the website of al-Jazeera, the region’s most-watched television channel. Scores of comments from readers celebrated this news as a blow to Western materialism and a triumph for Islam. Two or three lonely readers wrote in to complain that the report had inaccurately presented the findings of the research.
The response to Ardi’s unearthing was not surprising. According to surveys, barely a third of Egyptian adults have ever heard of Charles Darwin and just 8% think there is any evidence to back his famous theory. Teachers, who might be expected to know better, seem equally sceptical. In a survey of nine Egyptian state schools, where Darwin’s ideas do form part of the curriculum for 15-year-olds, not one of more than 30 science teachers interviewed believed them to be true. At a private university in the United Arab Emirates, only 15% of the faculty thought there was good evidence to support evolution.
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