Since the discovery of oil in 1971, the Gulf state of Qatar has been on the fast-track to modernization. Realizing that Qatar cannot rely indefinitely on non-renewable fossil fuels to support the development of its people, the Qatari government has launched an ambitious campaign to transform the country from an industrial to a knowledge-based society by 2018. This process is complicated, however, by Qatar’s deep-rooted history and current status as a primarily oral society. Because a knowledge-based society relies heavily on the ability to interface on a sophisticated level with many different forms of textual information, Qatar’s transition to a knowledge-based society must be accompanied by a shift from orality as the primary means of communication and information sharing to a society that is more text-oriented. The ability to read and write on an advanced level, this paper argues, is essential to establishing this basic foundation.
Education City, a 2500-acre campus located on the outskirts of the capital city, Doha, embodies one of the most powerful forces behind Qatar’s drive towards a knowledge-based society. Currently housing six American branch campuses, one of the principal goals of Education City is to bring the best of American-style higher education to assist in the country’s development of an information-based society. Yet, if these American universities are to truly succeeed in this endeavour, they must pro-actively confront the fact that the majority of Qatari students continue to operate within an oral society. This paper examines the relationship between Education City, Qatar’s desire to create a knowledge-society and the country’s status as a primarily oral culture. The purpose of this paper is to identify a heretofore underestimated problem and to help define a new area of research.
|Keywords:||Knowledge-Society, Knowledge-Economy, Oral Society, Orality, Literacy, Prose Literacy, Middle-East, American Education Abroad, ESL, Information Society|
Assistant Professor of English, General Education Program, Virginia Commonwealth University, Doha, Qatar
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