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As Arab countries pursue knowledge-based economic development, national skills formation policies require significant rethinking says a new report from Tahseen Consulting in collaboration with the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research.

Wes Schwalje, chief operating officer at Tahseen Consulting, says swift action must be taken to create sustainable jobs and develop the region into a truly global knowledge economy.

Wes Schwalje, chief operating officer at Tahseen Consulting, says swift action must be taken to create sustainable jobs and develop the region into a truly global knowledge economy.

You can read the article here: http://gulfbusiness.com/2013/09/why-the-gcc-needs-news-skills-formation-systems-now/#.UiRyOT-7Liq

Why The GCC Needs New Skills Formation Systems – Now

As Arab countries pursue knowledge-based economic development, national skills formation policies require significant rethinking says a new report from Tahseen Consulting

In our recent study A Conceptual Model of National Skills Formation for Knowledge-based Economic Development in the Arab World we raise a red flag over whether regional economic development plans have sufficiently accommodated global trends that have eroded the high wage, high skill opportunity bargain throughout Europe and the United States as these regions have pursued knowledge-based development. Nearly all of the countries in the Arab World have adopted development of a knowledge-based economy as a policy objective to meet economic, political, and social objectives. In the region, policies aimed at catalyzing knowledge-based economies are highly related to job creation, economic integration, economic diversification, environmental sustainability, and social development. While the advantages of knowledge-based economic development have become clearer, so too have the challenges of implementing related policies.

The potential risk of Arab economies failing to effectively contest knowledge-based industries by not factoring in the globalization of knowledge is reminiscent of the story of Muhammad Ali’s attempt to industrialize Egypt through the establishment of a textile industry in the 1800s. In 1819, Muhammad Ali began an industrialization drive using imported foreign technicians which led to the establishment of 30 modern factories for textile manufacturing. By 1830, these factories employed 30,000 but within a decade all the factories had failed due to lack of technical skills, European competition, and increased production quality in Europe.

In today’s global economy, a key question is whether Arab economic development strategies based on the transition to knowledge economies have sufficiently taken into account the changing economic environment where knowledge is becoming cheaper and commoditized by emerging economies. Decreasing pressure on wages due the globalization of knowledge industries and growth in high skill, low cost talent in emerging countries challenges the assumption that more education, higher levels of skills, and national labor markets can provide prosperity to Arab citizens and nations. Because competition for dominance in knowledge-based industries is now global and emerging countries are moving up the value chain to perform increasingly more sophisticated activities, the Arab region’s plans to enter knowledge-based industries are susceptible to the globalization of low cost, high skill competition from beyond the region’s borders.

Nations which have pursued economic development strategies to capitalize on offshoring have generally employed either a strategy based on the export of low-cost and high-end knowledge-based services or alternatively low-cost export-oriented manufacturing strategies. Because knowledge and business process and manufacturing outsourcing is a cost minimization strategy pursued by companies, wages in outsourced sectors face persistent compression forces from many countries which are in line to offer the lowest wages possible to secure employment for their citizens and spur economic growth. The Gulf countries, which employ many of their citizens in high wage roles in parastatals operating in knowledge-based industries, may be particularly threatened by competition from low wage knowledge workers and be subject to significant margin compression which challenges the economics of their entry into knowledge-based industries.  A recent ranking of the attractiveness of the top 50 global service offshoring locations shows that competition is not only coming from the BRICS but from many countries in Southeast Asia, the Baltic States, Eastern Europe, and Central and South America. However, only five Arab countries, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, and the UAE, appear on the ranking.

With increasing cost competition in knowledge-based industries from emerging countries, the less resource wealthy Arab countries could feasibly follow a development trajectory grounded in selective participation in knowledge-based and manufacturing industries in which they have a cost advantage and have or can develop quickly sufficient workforce skills to compete against emerging country rivals.  However, the high wage structure of Gulf labor markets is at odds with the emergence of high skill, low cost knowledge workers in other countries and attempts by global companies to minimize costs through outsourcing. While leapfrogging into some of the more innovation-driven, high skills knowledge-based industries might be a long-term vision for Arab countries, such a development trajectory ignores the immediate need now to create jobs and provide economic opportunity for youth. Across the region there is also the risk of competitive latency in which global industry possibility frontiers are driven by an increasing array of countries which may create additional competitive gaps compared to leading edge countries and companies that go unrecognized or cannot be reached due to market failures in skills formation by the Arab countries. Our research provides evidence of a lack of effectiveness of Arab skills formation systems that influences Arab firms to contest lower-skilled, non-knowledge intensive industries at the detriment to regional competitiveness and knowledge-based economic development.

The Arab opportunity bargain relies on a modernized interpretation of creative destruction which posits that emerging markets can also be sources of knowledge-based innovation. The low levels of regional R&D and innovation led to substantial expenditures in the Nineties on critical components necessary for innovation systems, research, market-oriented R&D, and entrepreneurship such as educational systems; institutions conducting basic, applied, and interdisciplinary research; business incubators; funding institutions; and professional societies. An important question for the Arab World to answer in making such investments is how much of a risk creative destruction poses for high skill, high wage job creation since continually innovating economies present both employment opportunities for workers in new industries who have the right skills as well as failed dreams for those who do not have the right skills, experience, or education. Contrary to what the region’s economic development strategies suggest, the future of the Arab Dream is very much reliant not only on what happens nationally and regionally but what happens globally in terms of increased economic integration, availability of cheap highly skilled labor, rival competition for knowledge-based industries, demand for commodity exports, and the economic health of other countries.

National Skills Formation for Knowledge-based Economic Development

Beginning in the 1990s, there was a shift in the Arab World away from viewing education and training systems as solely suppliers of skills toward an emphasis on the relationship between governments, educational systems, labor markets, and firms to generate demand for skills. By adopting demand-driven, ecosystem approaches to skills formation, Arab governments can align education and training systems with high-growth sectors of industry for knowledge-based economic development and achievement of accompanying economic, political, and social objectives.

While many international models of skills formation promote an exclusively market based approach, several Arab countries view investment in human capital as a political and economic goal in which significant government intervention is warranted. Yet, many previous attempts at skills formation policy have failed to address persistent skills development problems and do not present a comprehensive strategy to develop the skills of the national workforce as a whole. Despite the need for countries to adopt demand-driven approaches to skills formation, many of the countries in the region have pursued policies with no clear link between key stakeholders and specific economic outcomes.

The changing demands of knowledge-based economic development create a need for interdependence and collaborative networks for effective skills formation. The widespread regional pursuit of knowledge-based economic development is driven by policies that envision the emergence of high skill, high wage economies that will create jobs. However, the global availability and growth of low cost, high skill workers potentially threatens the viability and economic fundamentals of sophisticated, innovation-driven knowledge-based industries taking root in the region if skills formation challenges are not addressed.

The Need for a New Approach

The changing demands of knowledge-based economic development, global macroeconomic trends, and social development, create a need for interdependence and collaborative networks consisting of education and training providers, firms, government entities, and other key stakeholders for effective skills formation. Citing good practices of skills formation policy from across the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, our research presents a framework via which countries can analyze their skills development systems.

Arab skills formation system reforms must challenge the assumption that more education is always better. Particularly in non-resource rich Arab countries, governments must reconsider the full employment promise which hampers global competitiveness, reduce wage inequality to ensure equal distribution of wealth, and determine the Arab world’s position in a global economy with emerging low cost, high-skill competitors that challenge knowledge based economic development both in the developed and developing world.

While some Arab countries are more suited to competing in a high-skill, low-wage global economy, other Arab countries which are unable to compete in high-skill, high-wage knowledge-based industries will need to adequately calibrate the expectations of their citizens regarding the types of jobs that will be available in the future. They will also have to account for the likely instability of salaries due to wage compression from competing low-wage, high-skill workers. Efforts in the region to privatize education attainment so that labor market success or failure passes the burden on to individuals are prone to market failure without sufficient demand for skills from the labor market. If knowledge-based industries fail to take root and lead to employment, many of the reforms and money spent on higher education expansion, education quality, R&D ecosystems, and entrepreneurial growth could be deemed inappropriately spent.

A copy of our recent study A Conceptual Model of National Skills Formation for Knowledge-based Economic Development in the Arab World can be downloaded at http://www.alqasimifoundation.com/en/Publications.

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When it comes to news on economic trends and policies in the UAE, government and business leaders turn to the Abu Dhabi Council for Economic Development’s Economic Review. Tahseen Consulting is honored to have its work on Islamic finance highlighted in the publication’s August issue. We have posted the full article below.

Recently, Tahseen Consulting’s Chief operating Officer, Wes Schwalje, spoke with representatives from the Abu Dhabi Council for Economic Development regarding his thoughts on the evolution of Islamic finance in the UAE. In a wide-ranging discussion, Schwalje laid out a broad vision of the future, the need to benchmark best practices for other financial hubs, and how human capital is essential to the UAE’s aspirations.

Abu Dhabi Council for Economic Development: What factors have contributed to the development of Islamic finance in the UAE and in Abu Dhabi in particular?

Schwalje: The global growth of Islamic finance, which has considerably outpaced conventional banking, is a primary factor behind the UAE’s desire to develop its Islamic banking sector. With the exception of Oman, which only recently ratified its regulatory framework for Islamic finance, the UAE has the lowest concentration of Islamic banking assets as a portion of total banking assets in the GCC. However, the UAE has the highest total banking assets in the GCC. This presents an opportunity for the UAE to unseat some of its competitors in the region, most notably Bahrain, as well as attract international assets to become both the primary financial and Islamic banking hub in the GCC. At the moment Dubai Islamic banks hold 50% of Sharia compliant assets in the UAE while Abu Dhabi banks hold 40%. Abu Dhabi entered the Islamic banking sector with the establishment of Abu Dhabi Islamic bank 22 years after the establishment the UAE’s first Islamic bank the Dubai Islamic Bank. Abu Dhabi is now trying to position itself, as well as the UAE as a whole, as both a financial and Islamic banking hub that has world class, robust institutions, markets, infrastructure, and regulation. Federal level intervention to establish and effective legal framework and infrastructure for Islamic finance will have a positive impact on both Dubai and Abu Dhabi which potentially will draw international banks with Islamic banking windows and other conventional institutions to offer Sharia compliant products.

Abu Dhabi Council for Economic Development: How have laws pertaining to Islamic financing developed in Abu Dhabi to help Islamic financial institutions and what laws are needed to help develop it into an Islamic finance hub?

Schwalje: All banks in the UAE operate under the provisions of Federal Law No. 6 of 1985 Regarding Islamic Banks, Financial Institutions and Investment Companies which vests the Central Bank with licensing, supervision, and inspection powers. This law was passed 28 years ago, while the Islamic banking industry has evolved significantly since then. I view four areas of reform as critical to the success of the UAE: Broadening International Financial Activities which requires reform of laws pertaining to cross-border foreign exchange flows, capital mobility, financial intermediation, clearing systems, and active exchanges. Increasing the diversity of market participants which will require reforms related to diversity of financial providers, strengthening institutions, and increasing public understanding of Sharia compliant product. Product Innovation is required in the UAE and the region in particular. This will include developing the capabilities at the federal or institutional level to expand the use and types of Sharia compliant products available as well as promote flexibility in structuring financial products.

Abu Dhabi Council for Economic Development: What other new products do Islamic institutions in the UAE need to develop to grow?

Schwalje: The UAE is a leader in Sharia compliant Islamic bonds. However, there are a whole host of other products which are available in other Islamic hubs which are less developed in the UAE. This included trade and lease financing products for businesses. Wealth management, retirement and healthcare financing, and debt financing for households are not as developed as elsewhere globally. Finally, many equity financing and capital market products which would facilitate economic diversification into high –value added industries, attract FDI, and funds from international capital markets are still underdeveloped.

Abu Dhabi Council for Economic Development: What are the main challenges facing Islamic financial institutions in the UAE and Abu Dhabi in particular? 

Schwalje: Talent attraction and development is single most worrisome challenge to the evolution of Islamic banking not only in the UAE but globally. Based on our projections, we estimate that a another $71 billion could potentially enter the Islamic banking system in the UAE by 2015 which would create approximately 7,800 new jobs at Islamic banks in the UAE assuming current asset concentration ratios remain similar. We also project another 500 jobs will be created by 2015 in other Islamic financial services segments. By 2015, the Islamic financial services sector will double in size from approximately 10,000 employees currently to 20,000.

To meet this growing demand for employees trained in Islamic finance, the UAE will need to significantly broaden its education and training options to ensure availability of human capital does not stall the growth of the sector. While it has a number of current executive training institutions and higher education institutions that target mid-level employees in the Islamic finance sector, the UAE does not have any programs that target new entrants interested in the field or senior level leaders. The UAE also does not have institutions which provide research and analysis that advances the field. The experiences of Bahrain and Malaysia show that research capabilities and institutions have been key structural feature of Islamic banking systems that lead to product innovation and effective regulation. Furthermore, many of the masters programs in Islamic banking and finance in the UAE remain general MBAs or masters degrees with very few specialized courses related to practical aspects of Islamic banking that are required by employers. The exceptions are Zayed University and Hamdan Bin Mohammed e-University which have in-depth course offerings in Islamic finance and economics.

Abu Dhabi Council for Economic Development: How can the setting up of a new financial center in Abu Dhabi help Islamic financial institutions and the industry as a whole?

Schwalje: The UAE’s largest Islamic banks do not presently operate in financial centers. However, the Abu Dhabi World Financial Market has the potential to attract regional banks from the GCC as well as international banks who want to enter the UAE market. The new financial center also has the potential to enhance the diversity of financial providers in the sector by attracting non-banking financial companies such as mutual funds, insurance companies, and other institutions. However, it is unclear to what extent such a center will be able to operate independently of federal laws which very clearly convey the powers of licensing, supervision, and inspection of Islamic financial institutions to the Central Bank.

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As Arab countries pursue knowledge-based economic development, national skills formation policies require significant rethinking says a new report from Tahseen Consulting in collaboration with the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research

August 20, 2013 – Dubai, UAE – Nearly all of the countries in the Arab World have adopted development of a knowledge-based economy as a policy objective to meet economic, political, and social objectives. Policies aimed at catalyzing knowledge-based economies are highly related to job creation, economic integration, economic diversification, environmental sustainability, and social development. While the advantages of knowledge-based economic development have become clearer, so too have the challenges of implementing related policies. A Conceptual Model of National Skills Formation for Knowledge-based Economic Development in the Arab World, a new report by Tahseen Consulting, developed in collaboration with the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research, provides a framework and best practices from the Gulf Cooperation Council for helping governments align skills formation policies with knowledge-based economic development.

A copy of the report can be downloaded at http://www.alqasimifoundation.com/en/Publications

National Skills Formation for Knowledge-based Economic Development

Beginning in the 1990s, there was a shift in the Arab World away from viewing education and training systems as solely suppliers of skills toward an emphasis on the relationship between governments, educational systems, labor markets, and firms to generate demand for skills. By adopting demand-driven, ecosystem approaches to skills formation, Arab governments can align education and training systems with high-growth sectors of industry for knowledge-based economic development and achievement of accompanying economic, political, and social objectives.

While many international models of skills formation promote an exclusively market based approach, several Arab countries view investment in human capital as a political and economic goal in which significant government intervention is warranted. Yet, many previous attempts at skills formation policy have failed to address persistent skills development problems and do not present a comprehensive strategy to develop the skills of the national workforce as a whole. Despite the need for countries to adopt demand-driven approaches to skills formation, many of the countries in the region have pursued policies with no clear link between key stakeholders and specific economic outcomes.

“The changing demands of knowledge-based economic development create a need for interdependence and collaborative networks for effective skills formation, said Wes Schwalje, Chief Operating Officer of Tahseen Consulting and author of the report. “The widespread regional pursuit of knowledge-based economic development is driven by policies that envision the emergence of high skill, high wage economies that will create jobs. However, the global availability and growth of low cost, high skill workers potentially threatens the viability and economic fundamentals of sophisticated, innovation-driven knowledge-based industries taking root in the region if skills formation challenges are not addressed.” 

The Need for a New Approach

The changing demands of knowledge-based economic development, global macroeconomic trends, and social development, create a need for interdependence and collaborative networks consisting of education and training providers, firms, government entities, and other key stakeholders for effective skills formation. Citing good practices of skills formation policy from across the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, the report presents a framework via which countries can analyze their skills development systems.

“Arab skills formation system reforms must challenge the assumption that more education is always better,” said Walid Aradi, Chief Executive Officer of Tahseen Consulting. “Particularly in non-resource rich Arab countries, governments must reconsider the full employment promise which hampers global competitiveness, reduce wage inequality to ensure equal distribution of wealth, and determine the Arab world’s position in a global economy with emerging low cost, high-skill competitors that challenge knowledge based economic development both in the developed and developing world.”

While some Arab countries are more suited to competing in a high-skill, low-wage global economy, other Arab countries which are unable to compete in high-skill, high-wage knowledge-based industries will need to adequately calibrate the expectations of their citizens regarding the types of jobs that will be available in the future. They will also have to account for the likely instability of salaries due to wage compression from competing low-wage, high-skill workers. Efforts in the region to privatize education attainment so that labor market success or failure passes the burden on to individuals are prone to market failure without sufficient demand for skills from the labor market. If knowledge-based industries fail to take root and lead to employment, many of the reforms and money spent on higher education expansion, education quality, R&D ecosystems, and entrepreneurial growth could be deemed inappropriately spent.

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We have placed a recording of the webinar on our website at: http://www.tahseen.ae/r&iopengovernment.html#header

You can also download Tahseen Consulting’s accompanying study An Arab Open Government Maturity Model for Social Media Engagement. The study challenges previous models of e-government and open government maturity based on the experiences of Western countries by offering region-specific guidance that accounts for the unique governance tradition of Arab public sector entities. The report describes organizational changes government leaders can make to help their agencies leverage social media to complement national strategies to increase citizen participation. 

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We have placed a recording of Tahseen Consulting and EDUonGo’s webinar on The Future of Educational Technology Use in Arab Education and Corporate Training in the Tahseen Academy on EDUonGo. To view the webinar:

  1. Visit http://tahseen.eduongo.com/v2/?params=website/web/course_catalogue
  2. Click the eWorkshop: The Future of Educational Technology Use in Arab Education graphic
  3. Enter the course code N7R29O
  4. Enter your name, e-mail, and a password
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Hear how Arab educators are using educational technologies and learn how you can use them more effectively to implement innovative teaching approaches

With the increased adoption of high-speed internet access and mobile devices in the Arab World, education institutions face the challenge of meeting the new expectations of learners who want engaging, interactive, and individualized learning experiences.

Join Tahseen Consulting and EDUonGo for a free 30 minute webinar to learn how Arab educators are currently using educational technologies and discover how new, cloud based technologies will shape the future of regional education.

REGISTER HERE: http://tahseen.eventbrite.com

Speakers

You will hear directly from two pioneers in educational policy and technologies in the Arab region:

• Walid Aradi, CEO Tahseen Consulting

• Ridvan Aliu, CEO and Founder of EDUonGo

Participation Bonus

When you sign up for the webinar, you will receive free access to EDUonGo, a cloud-based software as a service learning management system which is being rapidly adopted by educators in the Arab region to offer mobile learning experiences to their students.

REGISTER HERE: http://tahseen.eventbrite.com

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This week at TVET Global Innovators Conference in Doha, Qatar Tahseen Consulting and UNESCO announced plans to conduct a report on female participation in technical and vocational education and training in Qatar. In the video below, Tahseen Consulting’s CEO Walid Aradi explains the relevance of the study to TVET reform and realizing economic development aspirations in Qatar.

Tahseen Consulting’s Related Work on Qatar

Value for Money in Arab Educational Reform: Monitoring and Evaluation K-12 Education Reform in Qatar

Towards a Qatar Oil and Gas Sector National Workforce Development Initiative

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Majority of Arab higher education professors still use traditional face-to face teaching methods shying away from educational technologies

Tahseen Consulting released a study entitled “Educational Technology Usage in Arab Higher Education” which explores the use of educational technologies by university professors in 17 countries in the Arab World. The study results show that Arab educators are significantly trailing behind their peers globally in utilizing educational technologies which have been shown to increase student engagement, access, enrollment, retention, and graduation rates.

Obtain a Copy of the Study

To obtain a copy of the study “Educational Technology Usage in Arab Higher Education” please go to http://tahseen.eduongo.com.

Due to the region’s youthful demographics and widespread use of mobile technologies, Arab educators face the challenge of meeting new expectations of learners who want engaging, interactive, and individualized learning experiences.

This is one of the largest studies to look at the use of educational technologies in Arab higher education institutions,” Walid Aradi, Tahseen Consulting’s CEO and leader of the study, said.

For the study, Tahseen Consulting analyzed data from 250 respondents in public and private higher education and technical and vocational training institutions across the Arab region. Participants were asked about their awareness of educational technologies, use of technology to complement teaching, and satisfaction with the functionality and language options offered by technology providers.

The study results show that only 11% of Arab higher education professors actively use educational technologies such as learning management systems in their classrooms. Regional usage rates are substantially lower than the 93% of professors in the United States who use educational technologies to introduce blending learning approaches to their classrooms.

“Blended learning approaches have been adopted globally to combine face-to-face teaching with online content and collaboration tools that allow professors to better communicate with students, allowing them to spend more time on learning activities”, said Aradi. “The study results highlight the widespread prevalence of traditional, face-to-face instruction in the Arab World indicating the region is trailing behind other countries in adopting modern pedagogical approaches in higher education,” he added.

When asked about the reasons they do not use technology in the classroom, Arab professors point towards an institutional culture that fails to promote the use of technology in teaching, lack of training, and poor IT infrastructure. To move beyond face-to-face methods of instruction, Arab higher education institutions need to highlight the effectiveness of new technologies on student outcomes and train professors. Educational technologies can play a significant role in ensuring the academic success of Arab youth who have embraced mobile technologies and have come to rely on high-speed internet access.

Wes Schwalje, co-author of the study commented, “Despite internet use in the Arab World increasing 27 times over the last decade, which is one of the highest growth rates in the world, Arab higher education professionals continue to rely on traditional face-to-face teaching strategies that do not incorporate technology.”

Arab educators, particularly at the largest institutions in the region, are not satisfied with commercially available technologies presently in the market. When asked how satisfied they are with current educational technologies available at their institutions, Arab higher education professionals show high levels of concern with the regional applicability of functionalities and language options. The implication is that Arab educators appear to avoid integrating technology in their classrooms due to this dissatisfaction.

“Educators are increasingly demanding technologies that are easy to use, improve efficiency, are mobile device friendly, and which provide collaboration tools that leverage social media,” says Ridvan Aliu, CEO of EDUonGo, a recent entrant to the region and contributor to the survey. “Emerging cloud-based software as a service can help institutions educate and retain students, improve institutional management, increase staff productivity, and make the lives of students easier.”

Obtain a Copy of the Study

To obtain a copy of the study “Educational Technology Usage in Arab Higher Education” please go to http://tahseen.eduongo.com.

About the Study

Tahseen Consulting conducted the study in late 2012. The study included an English and Arabic survey of 250 professors and administrators at 100 higher education institutions in 17 countries in the Arab World.  Both public and private higher education institutions were included in the sample frame. Respondents were asked about all commercially available learning technologies widely available in the region and globally.

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