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‘Social’ in the Arab world

The social media alter ego

Does social media positively impact education in the Arab region?

June 23, 2013 12:56 by

Twitter’s popularity among users in the Arab world has not blossomed nearly as much as its counterparts, LinkedIn’s and Facebook’s, whose user base in the region is now at five and 55 million, respectively.

But owing to the fact that the Arabic language continues to be the fastest-growing across social media platforms globally, Twitter is quickly catching up, with a new study revealing that there are now 3.7 million active Arab users today.

That number has nearly doubled in the past year and the percentage of Arabic tweets generated reached 74 per cent of the region’s total tweets in March 2013, up from 62 per cent one year ago.

The fifth edition of the Arab Social Media Report – launched today by the Dubai School of Government’s Governance and Innovation Program – also concludes that social media continues to positively impact education in the Arab region.

The regional survey, with roughly 4,000 participants, explores perceptions about the quality of schooling, the use of social media and technology in the classroom, views on educational reform and interruptions to schooling due to conflict. While social media has proved beneficial to education in the Arab world, with 55 per cent of teachers using it as a classroom resource, half of the surveyed parents (56 per cent) are concerned with the distractions that social media can bring to their children.

“It has also facilitated innovations, created new horizons for government entities and new social trends by Arab societies,” states the report. For the first time, most countries in the GCC saw a drop in social media adoption this year.

Fadi Salem, director of the Governance and Innovation Program at the Dubai School of Government, and co-author of the report, says that education in the Arab world suffers from extensive challenges in terms of quality and access, but that it is also one domain where social media has become widely institutionalised.

“The emergence of new concepts, such as ‘social learning,’ ‘intelligent decision-making networks’ and ‘massive open online courses,’ is enabling educators, students and educational institutions to rely on social media tools to create innovative approaches to education, capacity building and knowledge transfer in the Arab region,” he says.

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