June 2017 Member Highlight: Habib Tiliouine
ISQOLS Executive Committee: Co-Vice President of External Affairs
ISQOLS Board of Directors Member
Head of Laboratory of Educational Processes & Social Context (Labo-PECS),
Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Oran2, ALGERIA
- Describe your background, experience, and research as it relates to Quality-of-life studies.
My interest in quality-of-life concepts came first from my awareness regarding the importance of a broad vision or a holistic view to conceive and understand societal change and modernisation challenges in my own country Algeria and the region to which I belong. I mean the Arab-Islamic region.
After finishing my B.A. in Psychology from the University of Oran, I was awarded a government study scholarship to England. I preferred to enrol in the M.A. (Education) in the Psychology of Education course in the University of Leicester. I specifically started my academic career researching Teacher education.
Why choosing to study Psychology of Education in England? Since my student years, I was convinced that individual as well as societal change could never reach the desirable level unless guided with a powerful educational system and a good teacher preparation is the key towards that end. This conviction may have had a link with my own life circumstances! I was born in a very poor family of farmers who lived in a rural area in the province of Mascara in the West of Algeria. In my family, my parents and my two elder brothers did not have the opportunity to go to school because during French colonialism (which ended in 1962, my year of birth) there were no schools for the local population in my rural region (though there was a small Mosque where people could learn the rudiment of Arabic language). The primary school I went to opened in 1966. Until now, I feel a great pity that my two brothers instead of going to school like me they spent their childhood working to sustain the family. Meanwhile, I could, starting from the age of 10 years old, spend my time in schools’ internships away from the laborious jobs of farming. Maybe this is why education was very important in my eyes! My primary school had two classrooms only for 6 grades and had only two teachers. It had no running water, no electricity ... you see the situation was very difficult after the independence in Algeria! Despite that, many of my classmates could succeed because I think teachers were real heroes and the community despite the colonial oppression and poverty did not lose love of knowledge and learning. This is maybe why I was inclined to study educational sciences and specifically ‘teacher preparation’. With relation to this point, one of my preferred works was a chapter on ‘Islamic Education and youth well-being in Muslim countries’ in the Handbook of child well-being (Springer, 2014).
I published many papers and attended conferences around the topic of teacher education starting from 1992, a period that coincided with my country plunging into civil war after the shift towards a multiparty democratic experience (the Constitution of 1989), knowing that since 1962 the country was ruled by a single party socialist regime.
Despite that harsh civil war in which, as every Algerian, my own life was threatened and in which I lost many of my University colleagues, journalists, and dear friends I had to remain productive, knowing that many colleagues simply deserted the country! Among my personal achievements at that time was ending my PhD thesis in 1995, the publication of my book: ‘Educating educators’ (Dar el-Gharb, 2002) and the editorship of 3 collective books in Arabic: ‘Education and future challenges in the Arab World (Dar el-Gharb, 2003) , ‘Philosophy and Didactics’ (2003) and ‘Questioning social sciences’(Dar el-Gharb, 2004). I could also create a research unit called Laboratoire Processus Educatifs et Contexte Social at the University of Oran in 2001.
However, the University system in Algeria is highly bureaucratic and the University continue to be looked at as an institution that delivers grades, diplomas, and certificates not a place to produce knowledge and help society find solutions to its problems. Investing in research has always been postponed and bureaucracy is taking the lead until now! As a young researcher, I was lucky to witness the birth of the Internet. This fascinating tool helped many people like me to interact freely with the outside world away from the administrative heavy ‘machinery’. This is how a friend of mine shared with me the call-for-papers of the 5th ISQOLS Conference of Frankfurt (2003). Despite the delay in submitting my abstract, Prof. Wolfgang Glatzer kindly accepted it and put it on the waiting list.
The funny thing about that paper was that while interested in professional stress and burnout in education, I thought that because of the workload they had, primary school headmasters were the ideal targets who suffered greatly from that stress. But the study I was to present at ISQOLS Conference did not show that at all. So, I had to find a plausible explanation. Now I think my results were correct because school principals here have no real responsibilities. All-important work is done at the Directorates of Education, by Inspectors and school teachers!
Anyway, the Frankfurt Conference opened my eyes on the fascinating world of ISQOLS: a friendly atmosphere, high quality scholars, diversified research topics and the future they constitute in my eyes. For instance, I was lucky to discover in Frankfurt the ‘International Well-Being Group’ and the great man who is Bob Cummins to whom I was introduced by another wonderful scientist and man who is Joe Sirgy.
In a relatively short time my colleagues in Oran and I fielded the International Well-being Index, initially developed by Cummins, and prepared with him a paper which was accepted to be published shortly after in Social Indicators journal.
This is how I started researching SWB, and carried on for the next 10 years doing surveys using this Index along with some other measures each 18-months. Our data bank counts more than 18,000 adult participants. So, we could study SWB with relation to many factors: population’s demographics, health status, religiosity, meaning in life and so on.
Looking back at it, I think this research could attract the attention of local researchers to the study of QoL. In the beginning many of them were sarcastic about it: How can one talk about well-being and QoL in an underdeveloped country, where basic necessities are lacking? I think this is a fallacy, and the human condition need to be studied and improved in all circumstances.
One thing we could prove through monitoring the Algerian population’s subjective well-being (SWB) from 2003 to 2013 is that income explains a great deal of the variation in SWB, but personal achievements in life and feelings of belongingness to society are also very important in explaining SWB. Surprisingly, satisfaction with safety was not in all our surveys a significant determinant of SWB. One explanation is that the population can get used to some levels of security threats.
Another aspect that has come out is that in the context of the Muslim conservative Algeria, women’s SWB seems to remain high compared to that of males regardless of the level of societal chaos and threats. It seems that when things go wrong at the societal level, it is women who are more resilient, but when things get back to normal males seem to benefit better from the situation! This needs to be reverified.
I must add briefly that many Developing Countries fail to achieve their development goals because their policies are not based on a deep understanding of development priorities. The best way to resolve this is to listen to people’s free expression of their needs through monitoring their well-being indicators. So, QoL researchers can play a major role in helping social development succeed.
2.What initially attracted you to the field of quality-of-life studies?
The philosophy of the field as a whole has been attractive to me. I mean what’s more important in life as a whole than thinking of life itself and of the ways to make it worth living! And after all, I didn’t feel that many of QoL issues were very strange to me. I belong to an Arab-Muslim culture in which issues like happiness, spirituality, ‘beautiful language (such as poetry), the search for wisdom, etc. were not strange to me but just needed to be part of a systematic study, to be scientifically studied. For instance, among the first books that were devoted to the notion of happiness were written as early as the 9th Century (I am thinking here of ‘the attainment of happiness’ of Abunaser Alfarabi, born in 872). This is why some of my published works within ISQOLS initiatives were diverse, ranging from empirical research to some more theoretical explorations, such as Happiness in Islam in Alex Michalos’ fabulous Encyclopedia (2014).
The other reason is related to the nature of quality-of-life research. It has no end! All life domains can be improved and hence need to have some quality standards to maintain. This philosophy would help any institution to continue its struggle to improve itself and continue its search for better ways in terms of its products, management, infrastructure, social relationships, etc.
3. What are some areas of quality-of-life studies you feel are lacking attention? Any advice for future QoL researchers?
ISQOLS provides the ideal space where people from different disciplines can share their research and ideas. The main spirit that was behind the creation of ISQOLS, I suppose, was to enhance multidisciplinary, interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinary in studying different human life issues have not yet reached the ideal level. The diversification of approaches, and some more cross disciplinary work in studying QoL issues is yet needed.
Moreover, I feel that issues like social development in the less developed world have not been sufficiently dealt with. Social chaos and societies in difficulties, extremism in its religious or other forms also are topics awaiting further explorations and hence well-informed interventions. The seminal work of Estes and Sirgy on ‘Islamic militancy’ from a QoL approach (in Estes & Tiliouine edited book on Social Progress in Islamic societies (Springer, 2016)) is highly informative.
QOL, well-being, good life, happiness and so forth have no identical or standard recipes or same meanings everywhere. These differences should be the basis for a much diversified frameworks and much more fruitful humane science, I think!
Also important for the future is the study of the QoL of many populations’ segments, such as children and youth, people living in difficult situation, drug addiction, extremism, violent behaviors and also positive behaviors such as tolerance, open-mindedness, and other human strengths if I can borrow the terminology of Positive Psychology.
QoL can also provide historians with important tools to reconsider reading the history of nations, regions and communities. Much work is needed in this area. Luckily, Prof. Estes and Sirgy have already initiated this huge workshop through editing a brilliant volume: ‘The pursuit of Human Well-being (Springer, 2017)’
4. How long have you been a member of ISQOLS? Why did you choose to be a member of ISQOLS? How has your involvement in ISQOLS impacted your career/research/advancement in your knowledge of QoL studies?
I have been a member of ISQOLS since 2003. Since, I have regularly attended ISQOLS conferences, except when failing to get the organizing country’s entry visa. Meeting up with scholars from all over the world during ISQOLS events is a very enriching experience. It is the best opportunity to hear different perspectives, know about new research approaches, and meet up with friendly and open-minded people. All my scientific achievements, if any internationally, were done through ISQOLS, and most of them in collaboration with people I knew through it. I am thinking here of my collaboration of the brilliant scholar and leading figure in QoL research, Prof. Valerie Moller from South Africa. ISQOLS played and continue to play a major role in my personal and professional life!
5. Feel free to include any other important comments or things you'd like to share with the ISQOLS community.
When looking at social change over the globe, mainly since the 70s, one can easily notice that despite being variable in pace, it is generally positive. For instance, many deprived regions in Africa are witnessing a real revolution in terms of infrastructure and large population masses start to benefit from modern technologies. Despite that, there are rooms to do more to the benefit of millions of deprived people worldwide. Also, some more work is needed in terms of ‘soft’ progress. I mean help developing societies deliver to their populations better quality education, better health care systems, and help them discover the treasures of life, enjoy their natural environments, their cultures and their social life. Here, I think social scientists in general and QoL researchers specifically can make some remarkable contributions.
Unfortunately, our modern world looks more divided than ever before, divided in terms of economic opportunities, technological mastery, and in terms of the size of societal and human challenges. Look at the level of democratization and quality of governance, the prevalence of corruption, inequalities, global stereotypes, etc. There are yet huge gaps and sometimes nothing is done to help deprived populations to get rid of such negative phenomena, views and practices. The Muslim parts of this world are a striking example of that. Thousands of people have died and some more continue every day to die but not much is done to stop these bloody and useless struggles such as the case of Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Sub-Saharan Africa, etc. Wise and humane voices should be heard in our current times if the human species is willing to have a better quality of life for all.