Academic journal article Higher Education Studies

Education as a Tool for Peace? the King Abdullah Scholarship Program and Perceptions of Saudi Arabia and UAE Post 9/11

Academic journal article Higher Education Studies

Education as a Tool for Peace? the King Abdullah Scholarship Program and Perceptions of Saudi Arabia and UAE Post 9/11

Article excerpt


Since 9/11, Saudi Arabia has made significant attempts to change its public image because of its alleged association with global terrorism. Given its charitable interests in promoting education as a tool for peace within the Arab region, it has established the King Abdullah Scholarship Program (KASP), considered to be the most heavily endowed overseas scholarship program ever offered by a nation-state. Since 2005, over 120,000 Saudi university students have been financed by this scholarship to pursue their university studies abroad.

This investigation concerns student perceptions of Saudi and Emirati students studying abroad ten years after the tragedy of 9/11. It draws from 30 face-to-face interviews of international students in Australia about their perceptions and viewpoints of Saudi Arabia and the Arab World pre- and post 9/11. It centers on Saudi and Emirati students and suggests that education can be a tool for peace.

Keywords: Saudi Arabia, UAE, student mobility, education for peace

1. Introduction

Education, in its definition, is generally associated with types of schooling and curricular content. In recent times, however, the concept of education has been confronted by globalisation pressures and standardising quality control and performance-based measures in terms of teaching, learning, and assessment. There has been little attention given to its underlying purpose - particularly in certain pockets of the world.

In this study, there is question whether cross-border education can be considered as a tool for peace based on the expectations and experiences of Saudi and Emirati students studying in Australia in 2011. The principal author of this study is a Saudi PhD student studying in Australia who conducted a pilot study of student perceptions while researching Saudi student mobility based on the KASP program. In the process, and following a review of the literature, she decided to consider whether student mobility as a form of self-education-building and through international student interaction might be identified as tools for peace. As a premise, investigations such as this require a relaxing of preconceived notions and bias of what education is and the necessity of thinking more broadly about one's cultural heritage, background, identity, worldview, and ways of thinking. It also presumes that agency has the motivation, will and capacity to instinctually strive for and build upon peace or has the potential to do so despite any odds against it.

Here, it is appropriate to provide background on the context, views, and ancillary writings of the principal author as she seeks to develop understanding of her research motivation:

2. Background on the Context, Views, and Ancillary Writings

2.1 Perceived Views about Globalisation and Media

"Globalization has certainly been the most widely used and misused keyword in disputes of recent years and will be of the coming years too" (Beck, 2000, p. 19). In defining globalisation, it appears that there are at least three distinguishable dimensions: economics, environment and, in terms of relationships, between countries and people. Despite the positive and negative impacts of globalisation on a global scale economically as well as environmentally, many scholars have questioned its role. For example, is globalisation supposed to unify, integrate, and provide greater connections in the world? Is globalisation providing greater effectiveness or destructive tendencies to countries or nation-states?

Generally speaking, globalisation is perceived to link the world into tighter relationships between culture and people, and supposedly diminishing borders between countries and communications. Normatively speaking, globalisation should be a process that integrates different societies in positive ways. McGrew contends that globalisation constitutes a:

Multiplicity of linkages and interconnections that transcend the nation states (and by implication the societies) which make up the modern world system. …

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