There is a problem with education in the MENA region. It seems that the students graduating from the schools actually exhibit with less than adequate education. They are also severely lacking in practical and marketable skills, making them highly unsuitable for employment. The governments are now realizing the need for not just reforms in the primary school curriculum but in the entire education system. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is another name for the Arab World. Because of the ambiguous definition of the region, there is no standardized list of countries that come under this label. There are around 20 countries that are commonly included, along with another 17 which may or may not be included, depending on the organization listing them.
The emphasis on educational reforms began a few decades ago, when the Arab World started seeing rapid growth because of oil. What they didn’t foresee was exactly how rapid that growth would be. As a result, these nations were grossly under-prepared for the educational requirements of the youth. This was further exacerbated by the sheer number of young people. The MENA region is unusual in its demographics, with around 60% of its population being under the age of 30. This has placed an unusual amount of stress on the existing infrastructure. As a result, a large percentage of the youth either does not opt for secondary education or contributes to the high dropout and unemployment rates in the region.
The unemployment rates may also be a direct result of a distinct lack of trained personnel in the professional arenas that need them most. In other words, the needs of the labor market of the region are not being met by the education sector. This has resulted in most of these jobs going to expatriates.
The Issues Inherent In the Primary School Curriculum and System
Even though primary education enrollment is quite high, and the gender disparity has been more or less eliminated, there seems to be something going horribly wrong. In order to address the issue, it is important to find out the root cause. Since the issues start right after the primary school-level education, it becomes necessary to see what reforms the primary school curriculum requires.
A Modern Curriculum That Is Relevant To The Times
The curricula in most schools in the MENA region was set decades ago and has not been updated. The content that is being taught is outdated and rote memorization is rewarded. The area needs a revamp of the curriculum to encourage analytical and reasoning skills. Nearly two-thirds of the students who complete secondary education graduate in humanities or the social sciences. This seems to imply that Science and Mathematics education at primary level is either inadequate or not being taught properly. There needs to be a change in the primary school curriculum to focus more on science and mathematics.
Panworld Education has some excellent digital learning products for mathematics and science. Young Digital Planet, in particular, is great for teaching the science and mathematics lessons suitable for the primary school curriculum. The content can be customized based on specific requirements but the curriculum needs to be decided by the governments. The other issue that arises because of poor standards of math and science education is the fact that not enough students are taking up science and technology at the tertiary levels. This has led to a dearth of professionals in this area.
Since there is a need for such professionals in the job market, the vacancies are being filled by expatriates. It is ironic that all these jobs are going to people who are specially brought in while the unemployment rates are rising for the youth in these countries. The education of every child starts at the primary level. If there is a lack of qualified graduates at both the secondary and tertiary level, then it is the primary school curriculum that requires improvement. Students who enter the secondary education phase with a solid foundation of mathematics and science will be likelier to perform better and pursue the subjects at the tertiary level.
Improvement in Teaching Quality and Teachers
The MENA region has a high percentage of its population under the age of 24. The numbers are only going to rise in the future. Because of inadequate planning, there is a severe shortage of not only schools but also high-quality teachers. Most of the teachers in the region are not qualified enough or not motivated enough. Additionally, there are not enough teachers for the number of students. A major reform that is needed in addition to the change in primary school curriculum is better teacher training.
Creating a pool of instructors who are qualified and competent is necessary, especially for schools in rural areas. These are the ones who suffer most from lack of teachers, mainly because it is more difficult to find qualified staff here. Teachers specializing in the primary school curriculum are most important and those well-versed in science and mathematics even more so. Professional training can be assisted with digital teaching aids like online courses and mobile-friendly platforms to view content. Panworld Education specializes in delivery platforms and bespoke training solutions.
We are also intrinsically involved with the various governments in helping implement policies. This includes any tools and training aids for teachers’ workshops or training programs that they might initiate.
Better Infrastructure and Resources for Schools
As mentioned earlier, schools in the MENA region are insufficient for the number of school-aged children. If this situation is not corrected, there will be a serious shortage of educational institutions by 2020. When planning educational policies, the governments need to allocate funds for opening more schools. In addition, they also need to ensure that each school, new or existing, has adequate resources. These resources include qualified teachers, as well as classroom equipment, teaching aids, and learning material. For better management of schools, there are several School Management Systems available in the market. Panworld Education also provides Learning Management Systems, Content Management Systems, Virtual Learning Environments, Mobile Platforms, and Digital Library Platforms. These tools can help governments and schools manage the running of the institutions as well as the content that is being taught. Infrastructure and resources in conjunction with improved secondary and primary school curriculum is essential for a better educated youth.
An Improved System of Assessment and Accountability for Schools
As of today, there is virtually no system of measuring how successful, or unsuccessful, a school is at educating. This may be the primary reason why schools can get away with under-performing and why teachers lack the motivation to teach. As part of the reforms needed in the primary school curriculum, there needs to be an inherent system that measures the efficacy of a school. There need to be incentives for performing well, and accountability for the lack thereof. Furthermore, these schools need more involvement from parents.
Fixing the primary school curriculum may not be the only reform required to improve the education scenario in the MENA region. However, as a first step, it is the most important of them all. A simple change in the way primary education is managed will set off a chain reaction that will affect every stage of schooling for the students.