DUBAI- Karim Daoud, Managing Director of Pearson’s Middle East Hub, says education is critical to Gulf States achieving successful economic diversification.
Mr Daoud’s comments follow the recent high-level conference held in Kuwait by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), “Economic Development, Diversification and the Role of the State”. High ranking officials from around the world gathered at the forum to discuss how effective economic diversification can take place in the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
Panelists at the Conference agreed that diversification would be essential to ongoing economic growth in the region. There was also consensus that diversifying the economies of the Gulf away from a traditional reliance on oil will be critical to creating enough new jobs in the region, and meeting the employment demands of a rapidly growing youth population.
A recent report from the World Economic Forum (WEF) found that approximately 75 million jobs needed to be created in the MENA region by 2020 just to sustain current levels of employment – in a region where youth unemployment is already high by global standards.
Mr Daoud says that a robust and efficacious education system must be at the heart of any successful diversification strategy:“The Gulf states have made remarkable gains in economic and social development in a relatively short space of time. The next area for advancement must be developing the non-oil tradable sectors. The diversification experiences of countries such as Malaysia and Singapore demonstrate the importance of education in achieving diversification targets. Making education widely available and enhancing the quality of education is vital to ensuring future workers have the skills needed to thrive in new growth industries and foster the innovation and entrepreneurship necessary for generating new businesses and creating new jobs”.
The IMF Conference noted that improving education in the areas of mathematics and science, and raising the standard of technical and vocational programmes available were priorities, a point agreed on by Mr Daoud.
“Pearson is heavily invested in finding out what is working in education in this region, and what is not, having recently made a public, global commitment to efficacy. Our research in the GCC demonstrates that the public and private sectors desperately need an increase in the number of vocationally trained employees to meet the rising demand coming from non-petrochemical industries. Pearson is working with organisations in the region, such as Saudi Arabia’s Colleges of Excellence and the Saudi Petroleum Services Polytechnics, to give young people qualifications in these rapidly emerging industries. What we are also seeing is a need for workers who have had 21st century skills embedded in their educational programmes. Achieving vibrant new sector growth will therefore very much depend on the region’s education systems being able to cater to these needs – diversification depends on it”.