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October 7, 2015

The Role and Contribution of OIC in the Development of Educational and Scientific Facilities in the Muslim World

By Wajid Hassan

Introduction

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) formerly the Organization of Islamic Conference has the power and influence in development of education and growth of scientific research and development facilities throughout the Muslim World. Most of theMuslimcountries, due to the rapid increase in population, need to develop infrastructure to keep up with its population growth. The economies of these Muslim countries are also digressing into a chaotic mess.  This article presents the advancement in terms of policy planning and goal setting done by the OIC in last decades for the education and scientific development of the Muslim Countries and provides an evaluation on the current status of the policies implementation

Education and scientific development of the Muslim Countries is important as they have a large number of raw young population. If this large population is not turned into meaningful human resource it can be used by the negative elements in sabotaging world peace as well as they will become a burden on world economy in next few decades on the other hand, if this human resource is educated, trained and enlightened by providing the resources of higher institutes of learning and scientific facilities they can help transform the Muslim countries intopeaceful and stable economies of the world.

History of OIC

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was founded in 1969 as an organization to safeguard the interests of the Muslim Countries, its membership has always been comprised of Muslim Member States however today italso includes a few non-Muslim countries with high Muslim population as observers. There are 57 countries which are full member of OIC.It is the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations and is also its largest voting bloc on the Security Council. [1] On the contrast European Union has only 28 member countries.OIC boasts the same following as UNO and has helped formulate policy as well as magistrate across branches of government to encourage cooperation between Muslim nations and Western Nations.It is important to note that member states of the OIC include most of the countries in northern Africa, all of Russia, the Slavic States, as well as countries of Southeast Asia. Hence the effective policies of OIC can impact about 1 billion people of the world. This is pretty significant. OIC can leverage this power to impact the availability of a free and compulsory education throughout its Member States.

Since 2008, USA appoint a Special Envoy (Ambassador) to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. OIC also appoints members to the United Nations. The European Union and the United States who both have permanent seats in the OIC has a minimal role in the policy making. These seats can positively influence educational and scientific partnerships in the OIC member countries for the betterment of the world.It is important to note that one of the fundamental goals of the OIC hasbeen too create a policy that can create harmony between the Muslim member countries and the Western Countries.

Structure of OIC

The OIC is organized in a similar fashion as the United Nations. Member States nominate and then vote on who becomes the Secretary General. In February of 2013, Mr. Iyad Amin Madani was nominated by Saudi Arabia and became Secretary General effective January 2014.

The OIC helps connects its Member States with opportunities to participate in educational and scientific seminars and symposiums and long running programs. There are several sub-organizations within the OIC such as ISESCO, IAS, STIO and others however the information presented on the OIC website seemed disorganized and hence some detail about the various sub-organization of OIC particularly responsible for the education and scientific development is expanded for the edification of the readers.

Educational and Scientific Organizations Islamic Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization (IESCO)

The IESCO was established by OIC to secure universal access to education, achieve quality education and develop higher education competitiveness among its member States. ISESCO responsibilities are as follows:

    • It organizes regular meetings on the education with its Member States
    • Holds special conferences and symposiums to create innovation among the students
    • It issues prizes for students and schools that meet its rigorous requirements
    • It delivers special training for women in the field of management and training on product processing and grain and other business areas specific to women.

According to The Three Year Action Plan and Budget for the Years 2013 to 2015 ISESCO focused on education, science, culture and communication. This was directly in line with its first objective to interact positively with global challenges, both regional and international. ISESCO wanted to fulfill the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set for by the United Nations. The MDGs that ISESCO tried to establish was to ensure universal access to basic education, achieve quality education and develop higher education competition. In regards to Science, ISESCO sought to edit science policies and governance, reinforce technology capacities and create a comprehensive science education for all Member States. Within this frame, ISESCO wanted to conserve and utilize natural resources, mitigate environment risk and disaster management.

Islamic World Academy of Sciences (IAS)

The Islamic University of Technology is a subsidiary organ of the OIC. It provides scholarships and training for undergraduate and postgraduate students who are focused on engineering, computer science, information and teacher training. The IAS provides instruction in technology, science and engineering, technical and vocational education in fields that are offered in Member States. These classes provide an opportunity for students in Member States to gain knowledge of technical skills.

c)   The Science, Technology and Innovation Organization (STIO)

The Science, Technology and Innovation Organization (STIO) facilitates coordination between Member States to incorporate science, technology and innovation. The STIO facilitates competitions in order to increase competence of innovation.

Some of the other specialized research centers under the OIC direction are as follows:

  • Statistical, Economic and Social Research and Training Centre for Islamic Countries(SESRIC): it maintains databases that include statistics, research, training and technical co-operation.
  • The Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture(IRCICA): A focal point for Islamic culture that establishes research, publishing services and organizes conferences and symposiums
  • The Islamic Centre for the Development of Trade (ICDT):It promotes trade exchange between Member States
  • The Islamic Centre Fiqh Academy: It helps strengthen the Muslim community with the Islamic faith
  • The Executive Bureau of the Islamic Solidarity Fund: Its goal is to increase academic standards
  • Science Development Network: The Science Development Network addresses the needs to achieve higher levels of development and prosperity while increasing literacy and secure higher standards of education for OIC Member States. The Network believed it to be essential for Member States to demonstrate a strong political will in establishing and implementing procedures to tackle the proponents of increasing infrastructure for education and science.  [5]

Challenges faced by OIC and its member states

The Islamic Voice reported in March 2015 that 40 % of Muslim world is uneducated,on the contrast only26% of the world is uneducated.[2]This figure even includes the Muslim population who are educated but cannot make civil decisions and are not trained in skillful professions. The situation for women education is even worse. There are an estimated 122 million Muslim youth globally are illiterate, of which young women represent 60.7%. [3]

OIC Member States have enough financial and human resources combined together to change the destiny of 1 billion people of the world by empowering them with education and helping governments construct supportive infrastructure to provide educational and scientific facilities.It is disheartening to find out that there are approximately 600 universities in the Member States which means there is only one university for every two million Muslims. [4]

OIC has correctly identified this issue, “despite being an important strength of the OIC Member States, [the] young population faces considerable challenges in the social and economic life in a significant number of member countries. Inadequate education and lack of required skills make it especially difficult for youth in finding jobs in the labor market.”[6] It is evident from this statement that OIC takes its view of education very seriously however it does little to establish a wider academic market. It is a possibility that some of the member states are so much tied up in their domestic politics and border conflicts that they don’t have enough time, resources and critical mass dedicated to solving this bigger and imminent problem.HenceforthOIC is in perfect position to positively lead the world’s Muslim population to lead successful and better lives.Funding countries need for infrastructure, holding workshops on transparency and educating people on the importance of getting higher degrees should be the goals of the OIC but there is no action to be accounted.

OIC Policies and Plans for education and Scientific development (Ten Year Program)

In 2006 the OIC launched its first Ten Year Program [8] which was to uphold the transparency and accountability in governance and protection for women, children and minorities. This program promised to promote sustainable development and assist the least developed states in tackling diseases such as AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. This ten point program was to connect international agencies with existing development initiatives to bring greater understanding to theological issues and confront ideologies that claim to be Islamic in order to justify extremism.

First Ten Year Program (2005  - 2014)

Here is a summary of  the goals set in the First ten year program. [7] [11]

  • Improve and reform educational institutions and curricula in all levels with special emphasis given to science and technology to strive for quality education that promotes creativity, innovation, and research and development
  • Establish infrastructure to increase the number of Muslim professionals in Member States.
  • Entrust the General Secretariat to study the creation of an OIC Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievements by Muslim scientists.
  • Encourage member states to establish and increase research and development programmes.
  • Close the digital gap between the developed and developing States and request the General Secretariat to follow up these results in order to build the capacities of Member States to adhere to the information society which, in turn, will sustain development in Muslim States.
  • Encourage public and private national research institutions to invest in technology capacity-building and in areas of advanced technologies.
  • Review the performance of the OIC-affiliated universities so as to improve their effectiveness and efficiency.
  • Call upon the Member States to extend enhanced support to the Islamic University of Technology in Bangladesh.
  • Urge the IDB to further enhance its programme of scholarships for outstanding students and Hi-Tech specializations aimed at developing the scientific, technical, and research capabilities of scientists and researchers in the Member States.

At the 41st session in June of 2014, the Council of Foreign Ministers tasked the OIC Secretary-General with convening an Inter-Governmental Expert Group Meeting to review and evaluate the implementation of the first ten year program of action and to draft a new OIC program of action from 2016 to 2025.  It was also decided that this new 2nd ten year plan should continue as a guide for maintaining human rights and member states of the OIC should help to secure the image of the OIC on a global scale. As this image improves internal bureaucracy and organizational processes it gains the confidence of Member States.

Continued on next page