Youth unemployment is among the most pressing challenges facing the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region today. The rate of unemployment for young people in the region at nearly 30% is one of the highest in the world. A growing problem in the region is a mismatch between the education system and the skill requirements of the present job market. New technologies and integration into world economies require people with problem-solving skills, familiarity with emerging technologies, and self-motivation whereas the traditional education system places too much emphasis on rote-repetition learning.
Youth Unemployment Crisis And The Education-Employment Gap
It is the need of the hour for countries in the MENA region to work towards bridging the gap between education and employment. The best foot forward in this regard is increased partnership between universities and regional employers. The challenge is not only in technical education or the curriculum but rather in the development of soft skills, such as management and communication skills.
One way to bridge this gap between education and employment is by supporting interactive learning solutions, usually provided by private education companies which have proven adept at tailoring their training programs to the job market which helps youth acquire the skills required by their employers.
What Is Missing From The School Curriculum?
In countries where Science, Technology, Economics, and Mathematics (STEM) skills are required in the market and taught in the curriculum, the practical application and relevance of these to a working environment is often missing. Any country in pursuit of a knowledge-based economy emphasizes a lot on STEM skills. However, such skills can only be better transferred and applied to the working environment if soft skills, such as interpersonal skills, strong work ethic, and the ability to identify, analyze and solve problems are also provided in the curriculum.
Apart from STEM skills, rapid changes in technology, information and economy call for the new competence in critical thinking, problem-solving, decision making, team working, and more. How to equip students with the requirements for graduate competence has become one of the most crucial responsibilities in school education. Interactive learning solutions based on problem-based learning emphasize on learning method that is constructive, collaborative and calls the students’ attention to a real-world approach to learning.
It is absolutely essential that students develop effective self-directed learning skills, are able to identify what they need to learn, can locate and use appropriated resources, apply the information back to the problem and reflect on the evaluation of their approach for greater efficiency and effectiveness. They’re able to do all of this with the help of interactive learning.
How Interactive Learning Solutions Can Bridge the Education-Employment Gap
Interactive learning education is a hands-on teaching approach that prompts students to learn by interacting with course materials through technology including videos, online games and activities, curriculum tracking apps, and active discussions. Since students are invited to participate in the conversation through both classroom strategies and online instruction as opposed to the traditional lecture, interactive learning is a lot more engaging.
In addition to engaging students, interactive learning sharpens critical thinking skills, which are the basis for the development of analytic reasoning. Children who explore open-ended questions with imagination and logic learn how to make decisions, as opposed to just temporarily memorizing the textbook. Also, interactive learning teaches children how to collaborate and work successfully in groups, which is a useful skill, as workplaces become more and more team-based.
Parents and teachers can use interactive activities to encourage their child’s interest in learning because gamification makes the process much more enjoyable and interesting. Parents can also explore online learning activities with their child since these can serve as an extension to what they are learning in their classrooms. Interactive learning solutions provide enjoyment for kids as well as numerous benefits in terms of developing a child’s well-being.
Gamification is a great feature of interactive learning because it teaches children how to depend on and trust each other in order to win a game or achieve their goals. They also promote cooperation and teamwork which are very important skills, in every aspect of life. Interactive social skill games are excellent learning tools that also teach the children discipline because while playing games children have to follow rules and guidelines in order to participate. Even children who might grow frustrated with other learning methods may stick with games longer because playing itself is rewarding. This ends up helping them develop patience, another useful life skill.
Traditional lectures may still exist along with interactive learning models, but the lecture materials should be provided as a supplement to classroom activities and moved online for students to reference outside of the classroom. Classroom time is better used for discussing the materials, engaging in activities with teams and completing class projects. Students often have the option to pace their learning and work ahead with an interactive learning model if they wish to do so. By helping children think outside their typical learning modes, interactive learning inspires creativity and lets children feel a sense of accomplishment that encourages further learning.
How MENA Has Attempted To Bridge the Education-Employment Gap Using Technology
In Egypt, an initiative by Nefam has made the country’s entire K-12 curriculum available online. There are approximately 500,000 students making use of the 65 million lessons that are being provided for free. The advertising supported effort has also uploaded about half of the Saudi and Syrian national curriculums online.
In 2014, online learning platform edX and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia collaborated on Massive Open Online Course portal to bridge the gap between education and employment. The courses were targeted at Saudi women, youth, the disabled and citizens in rural communities and created exclusively for Arab audiences to deliver vocational and employability skills to historically underserved learners in the region.
Jordan is another MENA country that has been at the forefront of curriculum reform in the region emphasizing subject-matter skills, as well as other transferable skills that are necessary for success in the private sector, including communication, teamwork, analysis of information, and self-directed learning.
Technology can have a huge impact in this space and bridge the education and employment gap, as interactive learning solutions have shown. Countries in the region have invested heavily in equipping schools and faculties with computers, labs, networks, and software to ensure that students have hands-on opportunities to master their skills. Panworld Education gives the option to schools to incorporate blended education models into their curriculum, mixing printed textbooks and reference materials with digitalized teaching tools including but not limited to curriculum-integrated and enrichment digital content, gamification platforms, and language learning platforms.
The gap between education and employment can largely be tackled by improving the underlying quality of education using the interactive learning solutions. A fundamental shift from traditional rote-repetition learning to one that promotes problem solving and application of knowledge is required to help ease the path to gainful employment for the youth of tomorrow.
It’s time the MENA region revamp the way it teaches and learns by adopting a new system that takes personal needs and sudden developments into account. Anyone can and should apply to continue a lifelong journey of learning based on need and curiosity. In the US too, more and more emphasis is being placed on professional courses, e-learning, and digitized content on websites like Udemy. Distance education has also come to become more accepted, education through correspondence is a well-established tradition but with new technologies, the avenues for learning from home have multiplied exponentially.
Why Interactive Learning Should Be Implemented Right Away
Interactive learning can work where traditional classroom teaching may fall short. Children develop positive feelings of accomplishment from mastering new knowledge and skills using interactive learning. Interactive activities reward children for developing skills and can give them the confidence they need to want to learn even more new things.
Policy makers need to devise education funding strategies to sustain quality and meet rising demand for education and learning with an increased emphasis on interactive learning solutions, which also require resources. The MENA region still needs to reshape its education systems to meet these new challenges. If the countries of the region cannot alter their education systems to better prepare young people for the needs of the international economy, a significant part of that youth population will not be adequately trained for jobs that drive economic growth.
The education systems also need to be more responsive to the needs of an economy increasingly open to private educational companies. While the interactive learning solutions are implemented in K-12, encouraging entrepreneurial activity and lifelong learning should be an ongoing response to the persistent problem of jobless youth in the region.