Trivializing knowledge


Makkah newspaper

KNOWLEDGE loses its value in the face of corruption, but corruption is only one of many obstacles to development.

Corruption is an important cause for failure stalling development in all countries, but once it is ruled out knowledge remains the biggest issue.

Reducing the stumbling blocks before development to corruption alone is tantamount to a disregard for the value of knowledge. However, assuming knowledge without all its components is as grave as disregarding its value.

The majority of ideas, themes and content broached over social networking sites assume that knowledge exists as an essential element in all developmental, social, engineering, administrative sectors. For example, we witnessed many discussions about the flood that drowned Jeddah recently on that basis.

Many people believe that a specialization or an appointment in itself is sufficient to carry out the tasks of district chiefs, heads of department in the ministries, ministers, their deputies and undersecretaries.

In our current situation, there is no mechanism to assess the level of the expertise and knowledge of a person in a position of responsibility until the business crumbles or the project falters revealing all the cracks in execution, including low standards and lack of capabilities.

It is apparent that appointments are made solely on the basis of what is written in the CV and the recommendation of influential people, and not on the basis of an integrated profiling of performance and leadership skills.

And if some of the people who hold top positions were to share their resume through LinkedIn, they would not find anyone knocking on their doors with job offers.

I wrote an article last year titled “Qualifying criteria”, but that is not our topic today. Our discussion is about the importance of acquiring knowledge, which is an essential element in the equation of development and nation building.

Education is to gain knowledge. Unfortunately, if we look at our ranking among countries in the competition, we do not find ourselves anywhere near an acceptable level.

When our sons and daughters go to study in universities and undergo qualifying tests such as the GRE, more than half of them do not succeed in obtaining the average acceptance score.

The Ministry of Education is the one that graduates them, and it is also the one that tests and fails them.

We are talking about the vast majority, and not generalizing. Of course, there are role models that we are proud of. We have seen them working in sensitive areas of research in reputable medical institutions in the United States, Britain and Germany. We have also seen excellent role models in many other important disciplines.

Another important area of focus is management skills. Basically, we do not have training centers on important skills such as “change management”, “decision making”, “strategic planning” or “financial analysis”. We lack technical disciplines such as computer security and software development. All these programs are accessible only to young men and women who can travel abroad to learn them. The absence of such centers and programs locally means we simply lack them.

Our universities are racing to put themselves among the world’s prestigious institutions of learning. My question is: Is there a non-academic executive program in any of our universities? Do local universities have programs for “financial sophistication”, “mergers and acquisitions” or “entrepreneurship” outside of academic programs? If it is found, it is very little and does not deserve mention.

All of the above has contributed to reducing the importance of knowledge in our society. We have become so unaware of its importance that it made us assume when we decide to do something we can carry out that by simply having the intention. We are not aware of all the efforts made by developed countries to remain within the competition.

Our experiences in the past will have no meaning any more. Times have changed and we are currently in a phase where responsibility, evaluation and accountability are of paramount importance. The heads of companies and government departments who were thought to have succeeded in the past were a spoiled lot due to the weakness of law enforcement.

We are embarking on a new era where only the fit will survive. The ones with knowledge and a sense responsibility will lead both the private and governmental sectors, because success always starts from knowledge.