1974 MIDDLE EAST PROGRAM: Discussion paper   (page 2 of 2)

1. Individual modernization 

          It would seem self-evident that the behavioral characteristics required for successful adaptation to modern society differ rather markedly from those required in traditional society. These changes range all the way from skills and knowledge through character traits, such as self-discipline, flexibility and initiative, to fundamental values and world outlook. Our highly specialized fields of modern scholarship have not given us a comprehensive understanding of the individual behavioral changes required of man to move from a traditional to a modern society, and this lack is a great hindrance to the rational planning of development programs.  

          Perhaps Gunner Myrdahl has done as well as any in summing up what he believes to be the roots of underdevelopment:  "Low levels of work discipline, punctuality and orderliness; superstitious beliefs and irrational outlooks; lack of alertness, adaptability, ambition, and general readiness for change and experiment; submissiveness to authority and exploitation; low aptitude for cooperation."  This rather damning and one-sided listing, stemming as it does purely from the observations of a developer, does no credit to the system of values and traits prized most highly in traditional society; but it does highlight some of the areas in which change must occur as part of the development process.  

          No one is quite sure just how all of these changes can be made in individual human development, or for that matter what changes are most desired and necessary. Child development psychologists are pointing increasingly toward the first three years of life as being much more formative in terms of character and personality than had been suspected. This period of individual human development has, however, been virtually neglected by those interested in the development process. We believe it is of great importance to do what we can to focus Arab intellectual skills on child development and on the cultural environment of the home. 

          For the school age child another set of problems arises. The rote method of learning may have been well adapted to traditional society, where individuals were meant to learn their place and stick to it, but it does not generally produce the intellectual curiosity and initiative required in modern life. Schools need increasingly to give students the ability to continue learning as adults. In our program we concentrate on efforts to improve the quality of "tools" courses such as language learning, science and mathematics. We are also seeking ways to change the environment of the school so that teachers understand that their mission is to foster rationality. 

          In program terms, our work in child rearing and Arabic teaching is breaking new ground and is thus more tentative and experimental than our work in science, mathematics and English teaching, where we are somewhat more confidently grounded in experience. 

          Given our inexperience, we would not be working in child rearing and Arabic at all if others better equipped were addressing those subjects. But despite the importance accorded child rearing and first language learning in the developed world they are neglected subjects in the Arab states, casually left to tradition. They are, of course, deeply cultural subjects; they cover ground on which we must tread with care. Our efforts in this area must be directed primarily toward training Arab professionals and helping to create a market for their skills. Thus, in child development psychology, psycholinguistics, and applied linguistics, we expect to be more open than usual to using funds for advanced degree training abroad when qualified individuals attached to appropriate institutions are available. These modern skills are in very short supply. In the meantime, we will continue to nurture the Institute for Women's Studies in the Arab World (BUC), and to seek experimental projects like the Oman study, the child care manual project, the Arabic language teaching survey, and psycholinguistic research at AUB, which draw attention to these fields. 

          In the more familiar territory of Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) and science teaching, Arab-run institutions have already been established with Foundation assistance. Here we are encouraging innovation and research, and helping ELI and SMEC extend their scope into other Arab countries. The technical performance of both institutions is good. 

          We are also exploring work in a new program field, the popularization of science. For scientific thought and rationality to become part of the culture and not something left in school, it must catch the interest and imagination of the younger generation. This happens quite frequently in Lebanon, and Lebanon has produced a number of first-rate scientists and mathematicians truly remarkable for the size of its population. We are exploring opportunities for work with the science clubs sponsored by Al-Ahram in Egypt and will look for other ways to enhance the popularity of science. 

2. Institutional change  

          The second category -- the adaptation of Arab institutions to modern technology -- consists of two program clusters:  

  1. Social Sciences (sociology, agricultural economics, economics, and law) and 
  1. Planning and Management (management, statistics, economic planning, and law). 

          The first cluster consists of uses of intellectual technologies to understand and mitigate the traumatic effects on people of the rather severe changes in their lives that are inherent to the development process. 

          Our approach to the social sciences is discussed in more detail in the draft request for a delegated authority project that you will receive. Placing the program in a category relating to changing Arab institutions emphasizes our decision to focus on improving the usefulness of the social sciences to Arab society, rather than on promoting individual excellence by international standards. We try to do this by selecting problems of importance to the country, and strengthening the effective demand for social scientists to employ their talents to analyze them.  

          In rural Egypt, such problem areas include those relating to large populations that have been forced to change their life styles and productive efforts because of technological or legal innovation.  The land reform has been one such case. Mechanization and new cropping patterns are expected in the near future. Rural electrification may have also effects that need to be anticipated. In the cities, in-migrants experience difficulty in adjusting to urban life and thus most deserve our attentions.  

          The second cluster, planning and management, deals with intellectual technology for regulating the speed and direction of development. (Law and economics fall into both clusters reflecting different ways of using the disciplines.)  

          In planning and management, we are groping to find the extent to which western methods of manipulating men, machinery and money for productive purposes apply in Arab society. Our main efforts are directed toward strengthening the INP as an Egyptian think-tank for planning and management problems; working directly with service institutions like ministries of education where performance feed-back is available; and helping to build a foreign investment review process in Egypt which will be sensitive to the social effects of investment decisions as well as to economic profitability. The ISSR, a major grantee, remains poised between the peak of greater international renown on the right and the heights of Egyptian agricultural statistics on the left. We are seeking to nudge it leftwards despite efforts of our long-time consultants to push right.  

3. Technological adaptation  

          As we reach the third of our program themes, the adaptation of imported technology, it is clear that we have already been dealing with the subject. Childrearing, first language teaching, social sciences, planning and management: none of these subjects will find the same expression in Arab culture as it has in the West. In academic life, the focus of research is bound to be broader in the Arab countries because the scholar can't count on others to broaden the trail if he leaps forward along a narrow path. Secondly, methodologies must be adapted to the feasibility of meeting data requirements. Third, the market for scholarly work is underdeveloped, so that an academic must spend his time in ways differently from those in which he was trained. His teaching load may be onerous, his research may be unrewarded, his salary may be so low as to force him to supplement it with semi-professional activities, his peers may demand an ideological commitment. Hence, in Arab society the process of working in these fields involves the adaptation of the modern scholarly disciplines that are our stock in trade.

          The largest single effort we make to adapt technology to local conditions is, of course, in the field of agriculture. Here the initial task is to adapt the plants and practices of the tropical cereals that were successful in the Green Revolution to the agro-climate of the Middle East. This is a task we approach with some confidence because we currently have the program leadership, scientific staff, and methodology that will bring results for the irrigated areas; and there is promise of the necessary funds through the international centers mechanism.  

          The longer-run task of improving farming systems in the non-irrigated, semi-arid region is less certain of results. However, the world food situation provides strong justification for a concerted attack on this set of problems, and the critical mass of scientists required seems most likely to be available under an international center. Irrigation imposes an external discipline not automatically present in rainfed lands, so closer links with the social sciences will be desirable there. We are consequently striving to find a pattern of cooperation between social scientists and ALAD now, while both are part of the same organization.  

          This rather sketchy outline of the main program themes may be rendered somewhat more meaningful by the attached chart, which categorizes the substantive fields and sub-fields into the three major program themes.         

CHART:  Major Development Themes 

I)       The individual and modernization:  Activities designed to help prepare the child for modern life

i)        Child rearing

ii)      Population (family planning)

iii)     Psycholinguistics

iv)    Science & mathematics teaching

v)     Popularization of science

vi)    Arabic teaching

vii)  English teaching  

II)      Technology and social systems:  Activities designed to enhance the responsiveness of Middle Eastern institutions to the requirements of modern technology

i)        Agricultural economics research

ii)      Economic research

iii)     Social research

iv)    Legal research

v)     Environmental research

vi)    Socio-linguistic research

vii)  Management

viii) Population (management and reproductive biology)  

III)      Technological adaptation:  Activities designed to improve the relevance of modern technology to the Middle East  

i)        ALAD

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