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    Fixing the education crisis in the Middle East and North Africa region

    Many younger generation around the world invest in their education with the aim of gaining better employment and job opportunities. However, in the Middle East and North Africa region, the education landscape is in crisis as it is not nurturing these young minds with the skills needed by the global workforce. Rather than resulting in positive outcomes, a university degree in the Middle East is highly likely to result in unemployment.

    By 2050, the MENA region will have to create 300 million new jobs just to ensure the employability of the extensive youth population entering the labour market. Therefore, unless governments start rectifying these issues now by investing in quality education and enhancing learning; many of these young individuals will have disarray lives with consequences that will affect both regionally and globally.

    Many unemployed graduates in countries ranging from Morocco and Tunisia to Egypt and Lebanon demonstrate a waste of valuable human resources. This is particularly true for young women, who achieve relatively higher outcomes in learning assessments than young men, and who surpassed them at universities; but face double the unemployment rate in comparison.

    While some view the large youth population in the MENA region as a challenge, it should also be viewed as an opportunity. If governments place emphasis on learning, education can help push for long-term economic growth, stimulate innovation, enhance institutions and support social cohesion. Preparing youths with the skills needed to succeed in dynamic modern economies will allow their inclinations and motivation to become engines of advancement.

    The good news is there is now an observed change.

    Nine countries from across the Middle East and North Africa have decided to become early adopters of the World Bank’s Human Capital Project, whose objective is to push for governments to invest in people as the most valuable asset for all countries. The Human Capital Index, demonstrated the amount of growth and productivity countries are deprived of by not making quality health and education available for these young individuals.

    The bold decision to submit to this scrutiny is an indication that MENA governments are now open to the hard truths, resolve the identified issues and make a commitment to the region’s youth and future generation by implementing extensive education transformations.

    Countries across the world have demonstrated the possibilities, regardless of income levels. In 2012, Vietnam achieved Programme for International Student Assessment results that were comparable to that of Germany. With concerted policy action, Perua attained some of the most rapid advancement in overall learning outcomes between 2009 and 2015. The MENA region is therefore capable of similar breakthrough.

    A World Bank report launched in Cairo titled Expectations and Aspirations, A New Framework for education in the Middle East and North Africa, outlines the constraints withholding the region’s education potential and provides guidance and solutions to overcome it. The MENA region will have to come together to put forward new methods of intelligent learning so as to achieve the intended objectives. It also needs the relevant skills to establish the economy of the future. It requires an understanding and a commitment to its youth.

    The urge for learning include investments in the early years and grades. There is substantial scientific evidence that demonstrates the largest and most cost-effective impacts of public investments in education can be achieved in the early years of life, when the brain experiences immense augmentation. Governments in the region are recognising the importance of early childhood development to a great extent. For instance, the United Arab Emirates has made a large commitment to ECD, with the aim of achieving universal enrolment in pre-school by 2021.

    Its is fundamental for all children to have access to the education systems and receive quality learning. Education systems also need to recruit, train and support all individuals that are capable of becoming effective teachers and school leaders. Motivated educators and administrators are the basis of progressive education systems, and they need opportunities for continuous professional development.

    Egypt has implemented a programme for skills upgrade, signing up 10,000 teachers for its Teachers First programme and it is currently expanding nationwide. It is also fundamental to educate to the level of the child through cutting-edge instructional practices, and to determine learning through constant assessments. Technology is a compelling mean with large untapped potential in education and can be tapped into for the delivery, promotion, measure and management of learning.

    The pull for skills must come from the private sector. If schools and the private sector collaborate, students will have a better understanding of the essential skills needed in today’s workforce. Students can in turn influence schools to make adjustments and offer courses that are instead of greater demand. This will require the update of curriculums that echo the skills student need for social and economic life.

    Lastly, the obligation to advance education do not just lie in the hands of the educators. It requires a common understanding to drive everyone with a share in effective learning. This needs robust leadership to connect interests among the several groups around a common goal for education, and shared responsibility and accountability.

    Tunisia achieved success in the advancement of its education system in 1963. This has since kickstarted a shift in the developing economies to begin investment in education. Today, the MENA region has the chance to recommence its leadership position. The aim of education reform is to tap onto new technologies and the immense potential of its young generation to move forward into the digital economy.

    Source: The National

    Participating in the upcoming QS-MAPLE 2019 under the theme of “Promoting Research in the Middle East and Africa” from 22-25 April 2019 in Dubai, UAE.