Interview: Brahim Benabdeslem

How can foreign cooperation in education contribute the sector’s development?

BRAHIM BENABDESLEM: The weakness of trade relationships between Maghreb countries is a real handicap with regard to growth and socioeconomic development. The potential of cooperation and creation of synergies is huge in the Maghreb, particularly in teaching and research. Maghreb countries, and especially Algeria, have invested heavily in training and it is time to institute mechanisms that may build up trained expertise for development. Further cooperation between Maghreb countries would promote regional consultation on education issues – something that could increase the competitiveness of regional institutions.

The memorandum signed by Morocco and Algeria is a first step in this direction. Indeed, the agreement outlines increased collaboration to exchange information and expertise. In particular, the agreement targets the creation of new textbooks, the improvement of various education programmes, the development of additional education resources, and the training of staff and administration in both countries. This kind of cooperation also includes teaching foreign languages, science and technology. Algeria is ready to strengthen its relations with others countries on this matter as the education sector will undoubtedly make a contribution to the promotion of regional solidarity and cooperation.

What type of initiatives should be implemented to develop the training of managers?

BENABDESLEM: In Algeria, in spite of the emergence of the private sector, the managerial training market is at the embryonic stage and remains below expectations of companies in terms of service quality. To reduce this impact, we have two main objectives. On the one hand, there is a need to promote the growth of private institutions in order to address the limited public offerings, particularly in management programmes, as well as to encourage competition between institutions to ensure high-quality training. On the other hand, there is a need to diversify the sources of private funds to expand the resources available through sponsorships and research and development contracts, for example.

How is the quality of education improving?

BENABDESLEM: Investing in human capital is necessary for sustainable growth and ensures that the population has the necessary skills to successfully operate on the job market. To ensure universal access to basic education, the country needs to improve access for the rural population and improve the quality of educational programmes and vocational training to better prepare graduates for labour market opportunities.

Societal expectations and development needs, as well as greater exposure to the world through new information and communications technologies are some of the factors pushing authorities to search and redefine new strategies and seek new ways of organising the educational system. I believe the sector is currently facing two major challenges: the first one economic globalisation and the second is information and communications infrastructure.

To what extent could philanthropic funding help boost private higher education?

BENABDESLEM: Despite high spending on education, we have noticed that resources tend to be limited. Thus, private institutions are forced to secure their own funding by raising registration fees and increasing the number of research and grant financing contracts. In this respect, the Algerian diaspora may also play a huge role in philanthropic funding. In the West, higher education has traditionally sought funding from not-for-profit foundations, national organisations and state agencies. However, the fiscal downturn has negatively affected these traditional sources of funding.

Administrators would be wise to garner corporate support and establish partnerships with businesses. The symbiotic relationship between higher education and corporations is a clear reason for cultivating this alliance.