Monday, September 24, 2012

Education City and Globalization

Doha is one of the fastest urbanizing cities in the world. Since the discovery of natural resources in the 1970’s, the desert city experienced a rapid transformation into skyscrapers, malls, hotels, top-notch American universities and billions of dollars into imported products. The population of Qatar is composed of mostly expatriates who travelled from all around the globe to earn a better life. Since then, it has become a melting pot of cultures, traditions, languages and nationalities; a sociologist's dream! Combined with this sudden flow of global goods, services, people, money and information came resistance. The resistance is mostly represented in the elder generation who feel that this exposition will result in a loss of culture, religious ideologies and language. One example of such resistance arose when Qatar was bidding for the Fifa 2022. Several people opposed the idea of hosting such a big event that would require a lot of ‘openness’ in a society. Their argument stated that the millions of people who plan to attend will not all be familiar with Qatar’s conservative culture or no alcohol, pork or exposed dress code. Controversy also arose from people believing that Qatar would not be ready with enough facilities and capabilities to host the World Cup because it is a new city with not enough infrastructure. This video is one of many that express anger over Qatar's winning.

Another example of resistance comes from youth who oppose Qatar’s relationship with Israel. A group, Youth against Normalization , was set up to boycott Starbucks because it donates some of its profit to Israel, as well as opposing the invitation of Israeli tennis player during Qatar open.
In this blog post I would like to discuss the most popular example of globalization in Qatar; Qatar Foundation's Education City. Education City is a part of Qatar Foundation (non-profit organization) founded by Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser to promote education in region. She had a vision of bringing branches of top educational institutes from abroad to encourage Arab students who may not have the capabilities to travel to attain world-class education. Stemming from an IB education high school, Education city is now home to more than six world-class universities from America and UK. They include Weil Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Northwestern University and the latest addition, Harvard Law.

Globalization can be defined as the flow of goods, services, money people, information and culture across political borders. It includes trade, communication and language. Obviously, it would require intensive research and time to illustrate exactly how Education city is a perfect epitome of globalization, however this blog post will address it in general. As with every capitalist organization, the main desire is to grow. Qatar was able to provide several education institutes with a new market of students. Therefore, these corporations hopped on this new geographic location because it was an opportunity to make more profit and grow influence.

 With each institution, different cultures and information, ways of studying and people were brought in. One of the main features of Education City is that it provided education in English, by professors from the main campus, and with the same education that they would receive on the US campus. In Texas A&M, the students participated in Chili cook-offs, Georgetown hosts its diplomatic balls, Northwestern students paint rocks during orientation. These customs are all imported from the USA. Moreover, students learn about American government, American politics and play American sports. Although some of this already existed prior to Qatar Foundation, the placement of these American universities increased their recurrence. To add on to the sharing of communication, some classes are coordinated on Skype calls with the home campuses, some events are reported on by newspapers back in the USA and so on. Also, some exchange programs have been installed to allow students to integrate and interact. It has also allowed Americans to come to the Middle East and learn about the culture here. This is very important because the ME has a very tarnished image in the USA, made even worse after the ‘war on terror’ launched by the Bush administration.
Therefore, it is very clear that American education has had a very ‘globalized’ effect on students. Moreover, the advancements of communication and sharing over the Internet has helped everyone become more involved in the global realm. The video below is a of a student in Qatar Academy recreating a viral dance that went viral on YouTube:

 As with any globalized institute, glocalization has also occurred. Glocalization can be defined as a cultural practice that has been globalized, but adapted to suit cultural customs of particular setting. For example, the most popular courses offered at Northwestern University deal with Middle Eastern studies, or Islam. Most schools also offer classes in Arabic. Moreover, parties and school events do not serve alcohol. Many professors who have come to teach in these branch campuses speak Arabic or have experience in Middle Eastern studies. Although Qatar Foundation is a non-profit organization, the government will benefit from its presence greatly. One of the major publicity stunts was the labeling of Barcelona shirts with Qatar Foundation. This will create a lot of publicity and knowledge about QF. Also, it will open opportunities for growth. Finally, the students that graduate from Qatar Foundation will seek jobs that will contribute to society.
The placement of American Universities in an Arab, Muslim country has defiantly stirred a lot of controversy. Resistance came from those were concerned with the “brainwashing” or students. Also, supporting our enemy financially. Some were concerned with the openness that will result. Many people were concerned with the lack of Arab professors and staff. We must also consider the resistance from America to send people here. I heard several times that some professors had difficulty coming here because their families were worried they would be living in a danger zone. Having American education has had many consequences. On a positive note, the students are well rounded and cultured. They receive high-quality education with top professors. The job opportunities for them are greater than regular students. It has helped cultures come together and learn. However, conservatives oppose having Western-influence on education, lifestyle and ideas. Many people argue that on the long-term American education will erode the Arabic language and identity.

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