Degrees plan for Bahrain MPs sparks debate
Manama, February 19, 2012
A proposal to stop people without degrees from running for parliament has sparked a debate over what people want from their MPs.
The Gulf Daily News, our sister publication, had reported last month that new constitutional amendments could force 17 MPs back into the classroom if they wanted to hold on to their seats in the next election.
That is because they include a new article that states all parliamentary candidates should hold at least a Bachelor's degree or equivalent before they can run for election.
The amendments are now being reviewed by parliament's legislative and legal affairs committee before MPs vote on them.
However, the committee has already agreed to drop the degree clause and instead make it compulsory for MPs to have at least a high school diploma or the equivalent.
The GDN spoke to Bahrainis to find out what they thought about education or experience being the main criteria for parliament candidates.
Mazen Al Umran consulting engineer architect Hammdi Al Qabani, 26, told the GDN he thought everyone - including MPs - should hold a degree.
However, he added that meant more needed to be done to improve the education system. "If I have a degree it doesn't mean I am better than anyone else," he said.
"But it is hard to get a private education these days because it is so expensive. Sometimes you have to follow the system, everybody needs to have a degree but we need to improve our education system."
"Nothing should stop you from getting your degree," he stated.
While he acknowledged that some people excelled even though they didn't have a degree, he said everyone should aspire to get a qualification. "It does not matter how old you are, age is not an excuse," he said.
However, Halliburton petroleum engineer Ahmad Jamsheer, 25, disagreed - saying life experience was equally important.
"Life experience and certificates can determine how you can contribute to society," he said.
He criticised those who labelled anyone with a degree as a genius and said those without the qualification could actually work harder.
"If two people are holding the same position with one of them having a degree and the other not, the second guy is more likely to work harder because he would want to prove himself," he said.
However, he did suggest that the position of parliament chairman should be held by someone with a relevant degree or equivalent qualification.
"His degree should be related to the position he is holding, for example a degree in economics and political science," said Jamsheer. "Educated people can have an easier path in life."
"But when someone stands for parliamentary elections they should be given points for all their strong elements (experience, education or degree, achievements and more) so that the degree won't be the only thing they are judged by," he pointed out.
Salmaniya Medical Complex trainee doctor Sharifa Foud, 25, thought it was important to hold a degree, although experience was vital.
However, she added education and experience were not the only requirements for MPs.
"MPs' specifications should include good public relations, having power in society along with experience," Ms Foud said.
"MPs should have a political background as well and be aware of all current local and global affairs.
"Parliament needs to be diverse, for example, include doctors and engineers so it can cover problems in all areas."
Meanwhile, 36-year-old travel agent Rana Ahmed warned against voting for candidates on the strength of their academic achievements.
"Many people with no degree have more experience in life and in political issues," she said.
"There are a number of people who are hired based on their degrees, but still don't try to improve themselves.
"Having a degree does not always equal efficiency, that applies to the political field as well as other fields.
"For example, I don't hold a special certificate in travel, but I managed to improve myself in my field and became better than the people who do (hold certificates)."
Banker Abdulla Al Kooheji, 35, also emphasised the importance of both experienced and educated MPs.
"If a person has experience without a degree he will not have information or background in different aspects of life and he might face difficulties when dealing with foreign dignitaries," he said.
"And if it's vice-versa, such as a person who has a degree and no experience, they will face a gap between what they learnt in schools and what they have to deal with in their practical life."
Al Kooheji suggested an ideal balance would be a candidate relying 60 per cent on experience and 40pc on education. "MPs will add more value to society by using both knowledge and experience," he said.
However, his colleague Jameel Al Saati, 53, told the GDN an MP who did not have a degree might represent him better than one who does, based on how he handles different issues and develops ideas.
"Of course, having a degree with experience is a much better option," he said.
"To be honest not everybody with a degree is considered to be cultured. I want a person who is going to represent me to be cultured and have life experience.
"I do not agree with judging people based on their education. After all, voters should have the choice of electing who to represent them whether they hold a degree or not."
The proposed amendments were first debated by parliament on Thursday.-TradeArabia News Service