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Education in the Middle East and North Africa

Education in the Middle East and North Africa
Schoolgirls stand at the school’s yard in preparation for the first day of school, in Amman, Jordan, 1 September, 2015. Photo imago&people ©Hollandse Hoogte ⁃ imago stock&people

Preparing coming generations for the future has long been a challenge in the Middle East. Although education budgets have been increasing, illiteracy remains relatively high in the region, especially among women. Some countries, such as Egypt, are finding it very difficult to provide enough school buildings for their rapidly growing populations.

In many countries, the education itself has been poor; teachers and professors demand obedience from their pupils and refuse to stimulate critical thinking. The UNDP-Arab Human Development Report of 2003, “Building a Knowledge Society,” provides ample evidence of the restraints that hinder the acquisition and production of knowledge in the Arab world.

Since 2003, however, things have been changing, not so much because political leaders are looking for opposition or constructive criticism—most of them still don’t—but because the development of their economies demands highly educated employees.

Whereas in the past they looked to foreign workers, because local people were insufficiently educated to fit the demands of the job, the mass protests of the Arab Spring have demonstrated the danger of unemployed youth who cannot find work and as a result have no hope to marry and lead a meaningful life. The problem of youth unemployment haunts all Middle East countries, even the rich oil-producers in the Gulf.

Fanack’s authors have been asked to highlight the present state of education in the Gulf, Jordan, and Egypt, and their articles will be published consecutively.

Further Reading

Until the 1950s, the main purpose of education in the Gulf was to preserve and transmit traditional culture and religion. When petro-development kicked in, there were simply insufficient native human resources to do the job. The r...
Jordan still enjoys a regional reputation in education, but strategies should be adopted to improve its image and educational outcomes. A study on education, a copy of which was made available to Fanack, was conducted this year by...
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has announced a focus on improving education, and his previous cabinet announced an ambitious plan to improve education that extends to 2030. The ministry also promised plans to reevaluate all books...
However, investing in the infrastructure alone will not free Saudi society from the shackles of a medieval mindset that governs all aspects of life: the relationship between the ruler and those ruled, between men and women and bet...
Today, the Iranian education system presents both opportunities and challenges. It is clear that the system, and in particular higher education, is facing challenges both externally and internally. Internally, hardline factions of...
The MOE and ADEC announced on 3 September 2017 the launch of a new unified educational system to standardize teaching and learning. The curriculum will be based on building critical thinking skills, developing innovation and teamw...
In an effort to curb religious extremism and enhance open-mindedness, King Mohammed VI called for the “simplification and modernization of compulsory Islamic education in state schools”. This call is increasingly being support...
There are around 2.5 million Syrian children displaced by the war living in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. Host countries have taken steps to increase school enrollment, such as offering free public education and introdu...
Access to education remains just as perilous for Libyan children four years later. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) revealed that 489 schools were affected by violence in the first seven months of 2018. At least 260,000 students ...
Despite this growth, education in Sudan faces many challenges, most prominent of which is the high number of dropouts. Although the current constitution provides that the state will guarantee free and mandatory primary education, ...

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