This article is adapted from a market design analysis I submitted for Alvin Roth’s course in Stanford’s Department of Economics.
Since World War II, the Middle East and the North African (MENA) region has been neglected as a possible hub for global innovation and progress. The narrative attached to the region is one with continuous rife with tumultuous economies full of propaganda targeting the Western world. In the past decade, the world is starting to see that narrative shift, with more of the region’s innovators being highlighted to potential investors and partners globally, tying the MENA ecosystem to India, Sub Saharan Africa, and Eastern Europe. With these parallels, multiple parties are laying down the groundwork to further uplift this budding technology ecosystem. A necessary first step is education innovation, as it can act to both keep this new ecosystem flourishing and maintain the region’s upward projection. Yet, education within the MENA region has historically been tied to “meritocratic” high-stakes testing, a cultural hierarchy of professions, and the need to signal locally consistency among family and peer group career placement.
Empirical evidence demonstrates that lack of education innovation dooms emerging markets in two important ways. First, it staunches economic innovation. Second, without education innovation, the cycles of capital keep persisting outside as the emerging market falls further and further behind, usually resulting in mass unemployment. This mass unemployment widens the divide between the “haves” and the “have-nots,” which destabilizes governments.
It is no secret that higher education is broken. Students, parents, and employers all see a gap between what students value and need versus what higher education institutions provide. The mismatch of needs with an ever-increasing price tag is ripe for the startup ecosystem’s attempts to mend. The traditional 4-year degree is a broken pathway to the security it once flaunted as its value.
The Problem: outputs of traditional higher education are increasingly underwhelming.