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Reflections on Education, Employment & Sustainability

ARTICLE | | BY Fadwa El Guindi


Fadwa El Guindi

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A dichotomy emerged about a little over a decade and a half ago polarizing the view of academic disciplines into two polarities: inter (cross, trans) disciplinarity, to aim for, versus autonomous fields of research & teaching, which have come to be labelled “silos”, a term which I consider derogatory and manipulative, deployed to bias valuation and attempts at reform. The notion of “Silos” was turned into a negative characterization deployed to undermine disciplinary ‘boundedness’ and specialization. This became an obstacle against any objective valuation of the strengths of bounded disciplines. Disciplines and the specialized research tracks they engaged in are being blamed, without supporting evidence, for all that went wrong with the contemporary education system (El Guindi 2020).

“Education is best conceptually delinked from Employment, and both—Education and Employment—relinked with the notion of Sustainability as integrated fields for analysis.”

Silos is why youth today are unemployed, why there is absence of skills compatible with the job market, why young people are turning their backs on universities, why learning became separate from teaching leading to an overall questioning of the educational process. Academic disciplines became silos, forming forbidding structures that turn academic fields into irrelevant, rigid barriers, unintegrated paths to irrelevant specialization, bridges that cannot be crossed, and walls that cannot be climbed. This exaggerated imagery of separate, unintegrated structures, which became hard to cross and connect, was deployed to account for an exodus from higher learning institutions. This combined with a trend toward ‘entrepreneurship’ of learning which began to grow among ‘jacks of all trades’ in reference to persons who do not specialize in a field but skillfully pick up vocabulary and rhetoric skills and tools which they borrow, and often misapply, from different fields and professions in a way best described by Claude Lévi-Strauss as “bricoleurs” (Levi- Strauss 1985 [1962]).

As a “Seed Idea” to reflect on, it is suggested that Education is best conceptually delinked from Employment, and both—Education and Employment—relinked with the notion of Sustainability as integrated fields for analysis. This way of reconsidering arenas which previously dominated the discussion separately promises to generate new insights. This reconceptualization is grounded in empirical experimentation and study which I have engaged in and which has been published, using field data in all three arenas from Egypt and the Arabian Gulf, specifically Bahrain and Qatar (El Guindi 1985; El Guindi 1986; El Guindi 2014) as a way to contribute to a better understanding of all three.


  1. El Guindi, F 2020 Reflections on Future Education: Ideas for a Model. CADMUS 4(2).
  2. El Guindi, F. 1985 The Status of Women in Bahrain: Social and Cultural Considerations. In Bahrain and the Gulf. J. Nugent and T. Thomas, eds. Pp. 75-95. Sydney: Croom Helm.
  3. 1986 The Egyptian Woman: Trends Today, Alternatives Tomorrow. In Women in the World, 1975-1985: The Women’s Decade. L.B.a.R. Iglitzen, Ruth, ed. Pp. 225-242. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-Clio.
  4. 2014 People, Social Groups, Cultural Practices: From Venn Diagrams to Alternative Paradigms for Sustainable Development. In Sustainable Development: An Introduction Focusing on the Gulf Region. P. Sillitoe, ed. Pp. 460-480. Oxford: Berghahn Publishers.
  5. Levi- Strauss, C 1985 [1962] La Pensee Sauvage (The Savage Mind). Rev. ed. Evanston, IL: Adler’s Foreign Books.

About the Author(s)

Fadwa El Guindi

Retiree Anthropologist, University of California, USA; Trustee, World Academy of Art and Science