Badran: Abu-Ghazaleh has built by education a worldwide empire from nothing

Beirut – Organized by the Arab Academy of Sciences (AAS), in collaboration with University of Petra, and UNESCO, the 16th edition of the “Higher Education in the Arab World… Building a Culture of Innovation and Entrepreneurship” conference kicked off in Beirut.

The conference was chaired by Dr Adnan Badran, the President of the AAS and former Premier of Jordan, with the participation of Dr Talal Abu-Ghazaleh, the Founder and Chairman of Talal Abu-Ghazaleh Group, Dr Sultan Abu Orabi, the Secretary General of the Association of Arab Universities, and Ambassador Salwa Ghaddar.

In his opening keynote, Dr Badran reiterated the importance of this edition of the conference by saying: “We have failed. Yes, we have failed as there are 1000 universities in the Arab world but there is no progress achieved in the education system.”

He pointed out that “when we talk about innovation and entrepreneurship, there is a person here I consider him the entrepreneur of the Arab world. I want to tell you his story. He left his home in Palestine forcefully by the Israeli occupation in 1948 on a ship. His father had the key of his house in his pocket to return back home later. He came to a refugee camp in Lebanon, and had nothing. He never returned home, but instead he decided to beat the enemy through education and science. He had nothing as he used to walk everyday about 3 hours to reach his school in Saida for education. He said ‘I will make it through education and I will beat those who occupied my homeland.’ He excelled. He graduated from high school with excellence. The UNRWA decided to give a scholarship for the best Palestinian in the refugee camp. He was given a scholarship to study at the American University in Beirut (AUB). Again he excelled. This man has built an empire from nothing. The empire is not only in the Arab world but in the whole world. His empire is Talal Abu-Ghazaleh; and here is Dr Talal Abu-Ghazaleh. This is the entrepreneurship; he makes a wealth for the whole nation.”

Badran shed light on the reality of education in the Arab universities which needs to be restructured. He presented a comparison between the world’s high-profile universities such as Harvard, and the Arab universities which count 1000 universities that, unfortunately, achieved nothing so far.

For his part, HE Dr. Talal Abu-Ghazaleh pointed out that EDUCA means “from teaching to learning, and innovating,” calling for putting an end for teaching to be guides to students for learning.

He added “let us teach to produce innovators, pointing at AI TAGUICI students who graduate with an invention not by examination.

Abu-Ghazaleh stressed the need for high school and university graduates to be inventors with startups that would offer jobs for other instead of them looking for jobs.

He added that “the educational systems (rules, policies, practices) need to become knowledge systems as in the Knowledge Age we need knowledge schools and knowledge universities,” pointing at his newly-printed book ‘Brave Knowledge World’ in which he presents the power of knowledge and the ICT-based education.

He stressed that one of the reasons behind the failure of the Arab universities is that it doesn’t teach Intellectual Property, saying that “I am not here to praise the education system but rather to bury it not only in the Arab region, but also in the whole world, because we are still learning like we did in the era of “Kottab” when students were sitting on the floor while there was a teacher standing to teach them. What is different now is that the students sit on fancy chairs and that’s all.”

He highlighted the need for incubators not university campuses, the need for education by Artificial Intelligence, and the need to promote a culture of venture capital and to implement commercialization of inventions disciplines.

“I don’t call for education for all, but rather I call for education to innovate,” Dr Abu-Ghazaleh declared, calling on the participants to try to compare the progress made in the telephone and car technologies over the past 150 years, to the progress made over the same period in the classroom. “Shouldn’t we all feel ashamed?” he added. 

He reiterated that “our educational institutions have one objective, i.e. to produce job-seekers in the workplace of today. Are we doing anything about preparing students for the workplace of future?”
Abu-Ghazaleh said he wish to explore the possibility of suing the educational system in each country and in the world at large for its failure in meeting the needs of the students and for its incompetence in adapting to the demands of progress, change, and the future.

The 2-day conference was attended by a number of deans, academics, and education experts from Jordan, Lebanon, Qatar, Kuwait, Syria, USA, and Britain.

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