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Tue 26 Jan 2010 06:49 AM

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Blair says reforms needed in Mideast education

Former British PM says investment important but also questions curriculum.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has called for the Middle East and parts of Asia to address the issue of what they are teaching children in their schools.

Asked at the Global Competitiveness Forum (GCF) in Riyadh if more money should be invested in the children of the Arab world, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and Indonesia, Blair said: “I think it is really important we invest in education, but I think what we teach is also really important.

"You see, if we want people to succeed in a global competitive economy, we have got to teach them to be open-minded people. We have got to teach them about the things that are going to equip them for that new world.

“We have got to pose some very hard questions to ourselves about what we are going to have taught in our schools, how it is going to be taught, and who is going to teach it. Because all of those things will matter.”

Blair, who is now the Official Envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East, added that he was currently involved in reforming the education system in Palestine.

Asked how social progress in Middle East countries would occur, Blair said: “If you look at Saudi Arabia today, and you think of it having the GCF and the King Abdullah University and you see the changes that are happening to the country, I think you can have every confidence for the future. I really believe that.

"I believe that is solely because people can see that the future in which the human spirit is allowed to free is the best future for the country.”

In his speech, which closed the second day of the GCF on Monday, Blair talked about the importance of individuals understanding and respecting religious beliefs they did not share.

“I don’t believe today you can afford to be illiterate about other peoples’ religion. Globalisation is pushing us all together, religion is threatening to pull us apart. Misunderstanding causes fear, and fear causes conflict.

“It is important people understand the faith of the other person, not only understand it but respect it.”

On the question of his biggest regret during his time as Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr Blair said: “Whenever people ask me that I tell them that that is for me to know and for them to find out.”

Blair will appear before the UK’s War Inquiry into the decisions that led to British involvement in the Iraq war on Friday.

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Nacheez 10 years ago

For Tony Blair to sermonize “we have got to teach them to be open-minded people” is positively criminal. This is person who has admitted that he would have invaded Iraq even without evidence of weapons of mass destruction and would have found a way to justify the war to parliament and the public. Please see the guardian of 12 Dec 09.

George ittyarah 10 years ago

Some of the finest colleges and hospitals even today in the Indian subcontinent especially in India were built some 200 years ago by some dedicated and greedless British missionaries, not by greedy British business men. Many of the top Indian politicians and diplomats in the past and even today were privileged to study in those reputed institutions. In my opinion, establishment of such great reputable institutions in various parts of India centuries ago were really prompted by man's quest for knowledge to live in a modern world which was rooted in the spiritual enlightenment of those founding fathers. These institutions today stand as gentle and powerful educational testimonials for the cream of Indian society. Thanks

BRANDO 10 years ago

@ Khaled and Nacheez I totally agree and I would bet that the vast majority of people in Britain would agree with you, I'm British and would'nt listen to a thing Blair said as its likely one of two things, hot air or lies. He did'nt manage to fix our severely broken school system in all the time he was Prime Minister here...or create more jobs...youth training...better health care...security...reduce crime ! He's the typical hypocritical UK politician. What he's doing telling the Middle East what to do I really don't know, he has less common sense than our local village idiot !