Tuesday, February 05, 2008

World Bank: Arab education falling behind

Titled: The Road Not Traveled: Education Reform in the Middle East and North Africa (pdf, 399 pages).

One paragraph:
Notwithstanding these successes—and the considerable resources invested in education—reforms have not fully delivered on their promises. In particular, the relationship between education and economic growth has remained weak, the divide between education and employment has not been bridged, and the quality of education continues to be disappointing. Also, the region has not yet caught up with the rest of the world in terms of adult literacy rates and the average years of schooling in the population aged 15 and above. Despite considerable growth in the level of educational attainment, there continues to be an “education gap” with other regions, in absolute terms.

The education systems did not produce what the markets needed, and the markets were not sufficiently developed to absorb the educated labor force into the most efficient uses. Thus, the region needs to travel a new road.

The new road has two features: the first is a new approach to education reform in which the focus is on incentives and public accountability, besides the education process itself; the other feature concerns closing the gap between the supply of educated individuals and labor demand, both internally and externally.
For example:
In Djibouti, Egypt, Morocco, Oman, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and West Bank and Gaza, more than 70 percent of the students are in the humanities and social sciences. This pattern of enrollment is historically consistent with a policy of absorbing most university graduates into civil service jobs, but is ill suited to a development strategy that draws on private initiatives and dynamic manufacturing and service sectors.
See the BBC's news report.

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Blogger Dubai Entrepreneur said...

That is sad but true. My own father spent his last penny on our education. When my brother wanted to study psychology and/or philosophy, he told him he could study whatever he pleased. There was one catch though: he would not finance it. If he expected him to finance it, he would have to pick something that made sense to him. My brother studied Finance. My father is an economist :)

One can easily tell how terrible the education has become by looking at the type of students universities are dishing out.

I was once giving a lecture at a local university here. When I was done, I spent some time talking to the professors about the activities the students can get involved in to improve their marketability and skills when they are out looking for a job. They all looked down and admitted that most of those "senior" level students can hardly perform basic tasks that a freshman in any reasonable school would be able to do with ease.

It truly is a shame, because the buildings and halls are magnificent.

1:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The data in the report is embarassingly old.

I wonder, though --- even if it was updated, would the picture change? I'd guess not.

3:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


10:41 PM  
Blogger John B. Chilton said...

First anon: About the data. Part of the problem here is that governments in the middle east don't do a good job with data. To illustrate the point, one of the major obstacles to hiring good young economists to come to the region is that publication of good research depends on good data. Good economists tend to take jobs in the areas where they have access to good data.

4:41 AM  
Blogger John B. Chilton said...

Anon 2 -- thanks for the tip on the NYT article. A lot to read!

4:41 AM  

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