Using translation to grow scientists and mathematicians

September 20, 2017
Using translation to grow scientists and mathematicians

Professional translation has almost countless uses around the world. From the sharing of new medical findings to enabling individuals to start new lives overseas, translation positively impacts on our world every day. Now, the United Arab Emirates has announced a huge new project that will see educational translation used to foster a new generation of scientists and mathematicians across the Arab world.  

50 million students targeted

According to UAE Vice President and Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, fewer than 230 of every million Arabs are scientists. He comments, 

“The reality of education in the Arab world does not satisfy anyone. I believe in the exceptional abilities of Arab students once they have the resources, the means and the tools of modern education.”

As such, the Sheikh has announced a highly ambitious translation project that will result in free online learning opportunities for 50 million Arab students by 2018. 

The UAE E-learning Project

The Mohammad Bin Rashid Arabic eLearning Project was formally launched by the Sheikh at Dubai’s World Trade Centre. The program is targeted at students ranging from kindergarten to grade 12. It will see more than 5,000 videos presented in Arabic to students across the UAE. 

As part of the vast project, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has called on translators, teachers, scientists, technicians and researchers to take part in ‘the Translation Challenge.’ The 5,000 video tutorials, which are currently presented in English, will see more than 11 million words of educational content converted into Arabic. 

Arabic translation of this scale is no small undertaking, but the Sheikh has emphasized the value and importance of the project for future generations:

“We want to provide a strong scientific material in Mathematics and Science for all Arab students, and the project is a first step in a long way to improve the reality of Arab education.”

Literacy findings

The initiative follows findings published by Gulf News, which reported that 14% of the Arab world is illiterate. That accounts for some 54 million people. Meanwhile, 43% of Arab students don’t receive the basic principles of education, and the quality of science and maths education in schools across the Arabian Peninsula ranks just 3.9 out of 7. 

One of the most shocking figures is that just 230 of every million Arabs are scientists. In an area with vast technological and research and development ambitions, the figure is worryingly low. By way of comparison, some 5,000 of every million Americans are scientists. The proportion in Japan is almost exactly the same. 

The result is that just 1% of contributions to research and development are made by Arab scholars. Of the two million patents in the world, just 17,000 were registered in Arab countries. 

Embracing translation and technology

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is seeking to embrace both translation and technology in order to rapidly address the issue. He has cited e-learning as “the fastest way to bridge the educational gap in the Arab world” and has challenged all Arabs to help complete the massive translation project in just one year. 

The decisive action will see volunteers registering online to provide their support in helping future generations of Arab students to excel in heretofore neglected areas. As the future workforce of the UAE, these students will be a powerful force in the direction that the Arab world takes over the coming years. 

With 50,000 hours of video editing per month and a total of 11 million words needing translation, nobody could accuse the UAE of thinking small. What a fantastic affirmation of the value of translation in making the world a better place with enhanced opportunities for future generations. 

Final thoughts

Do you speak Arabic? Will you be getting involved in the Mohammad Bin Rashid Arabic eLearning Project? Share your comments and experience below. 

By Ofer Tirosh

Ofer Tirosh is the founder and CEO of Tomedes, a language technology and translation company that supports business growth through a range of innovative localization strategies. He has been helping companies reach their global goals since 2007.



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