Tunis/Tunisia — Tunisia and the United Kingdom, on Thursday, decided to set up a permanent committee to support scientific co-operation between the two countries, following a meeting in Tunis attended by Higher Education Minister Salim Khalbous and British Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa Alistair Burt.
The Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research said the setting up of the 30-member committee aims to enhance co-operation between Tunisia and the United Kingdom in the field of higher education and scientific research.
He added that the committee will explore all available co-operation opportunities and focus on channels of continuous communication between universities in Tunisia and their British counterparts in order to benefit from their experience in research and higher education.
In a statement to TAP, the minister said the establishment of the committee will help strengthen the position of English language teaching in Tunisian universities, stressing Tunisia's keenness to benefit from the expertise of British universities in improving the teaching of this language, which has become the language of science and business in the world.
Member of the committee, Mohamed-Salah Omri, Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature at the Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford noted that the presence of Tunisian students and professors in British universities is still very low.
He expressed the hope that the committee will provide the official support that has been absent for many years and which would help promote horizontal ties between professors and researchers from Tunisia and Britain.
The Minister of Higher Education emphasised that the improvement of English teaching does not preclude the development of the teaching of other languages, in reference to French in response to a question by TAP about the extent to which the English-language teaching may impact on learning French, the second widely spoken language in Tunisia after Arabic.
"The Tunisian citizen has the ability to learn more than two languages and his learning rate is three languages and sometimes more," he pointed out.
For his part, the British Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa said his visit aims to establish mutually beneficial co-operation in the field of higher education and scientific research, considering that the development of scientific research goes beyond learning English to acquire several non-technical skills such as critical thinking.