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Dr. Khalil Hindi Discusses the Dilemmas of Higher Education in Palestine - Highlights

Thursday
August 18, 2011
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BZU President, Dr.. Khalil Hindi, stressed that there is a misunderstanding of higher education and the role of universities in the Palestinian society, where many politicians and professionals perceive the universities as factories for either certificates or workers. Some believe that being admitted to a university must lead automatically to obtaining the academic degree, which undermines the quality of the academic performance of universities

Others consider the role of the university is restricted to a training institution that prepares students to integrate into the labor market. This came during a lecture delivered by Dr.. Hindi recently entitled: "Dilemmas of Higher Education in Palestine," held at the Ottoman court .

As for the problem of scientific research in the Palestinian universities, Dr. Hindi  referred to several problems, most notably: isolation of the teaching staff from the global scientific community and the lack of contact with scientists and thinkers in various scientific fields, in addition to the incentive system, and their link to a unified cadre that contributes to the reluctance of the faculty to do research work, since the financial return from work on studies and external consulting is much higher. Also, the universities have established research centers that led to the separation of research from teaching, and lowered the quality of research carried out by these centers, restricted to  the form of policy papers, rather than scientific research. 

About  models of higher education, Dr.. Hindi said that these models intersect with each other in certain qualities, but it is possible to speak about two models: 1st the model of public higher education and the 2nd is the elite model of higher education. In the 1st model, the community seeks to provide higher education to all, based on the principle that individuals who receive higher education, have the ability to get higher grades and be less vulnerable to unemployment. The advocates of this model argue that higher education bears traces throughout generations, making the offspring  of higher education graduates more educated and more capable of getting high grades, and less vulnerable to unemployment. 

The advocates of elite higher education believe that public higher education impoverishes society of human resources working in the medium economic sectors, such as skilled labors, causing the loss of key resources in the process of economic development, so the advocates of this school of thought call for the creation of highly qualified cadres through university education, enabling the community to catch up with the knowledge economics by targeting individuals with high academic and scientific qualifications and providing other training opportunities for the rest of the individuals. 

Between those two extreme models, there are hybrid models that seek to provide public higher education, while focusing on providing elite educational institutions for exceptional individuals, enabling them to lead the development process. This model is common in the Western countries, where there are opportunities for higher education for all, while there are distinguished universities that provide elite higher education. This model is applicable to the higher education sector in the United States, where there are different types of colleges and universities, while there are distinguished universities such as Stanford and Harvard.

Regarding the main dilemmas facing higher education in Palestine, Dr. Hindi has identified five basic problems: 1. Inability to recruit faculty at universities, since they can hire only the Palestinians who carry Palestinian identity and who can stay in the country, which strongly reduces the possibility of supplying universities with expertise and highly-distinguished researchers. 2. Decline in the leading role of the student movement, with the increasing influence of political movements that control the student movement, which failed to play the role of student-centered interest. 3. Employee unions in universities play a negative role, focusing on the material aspect only. 4. National universities play a central role in the formation of a national identity, but the Palestinian universities are local universities, and BZU is the best at this level, where the students from Ramallah and the  central district form 72% of the student body.

In addition, the 5th problem is the structural deformation of universities, seeking to overcome the problems emerging from procedures taken during the development of new courses and doubling the master's programs, and other measures, without giving attention to the quality.

This seminar is part of a series of seminars organized by a group of young people (males & females), aiming at encouraging critical thinking and mental resistance in the Palestinian society, in addition to opening the door for new discussion topics.

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