Presently, the Middle East is experiencing a youth bulge due to the high fertility rates in the past. This is when a large share of the population is comprised of children and young adults. Although population growth rates are expected to decline in the future, the demand for education will increase as this bulge puts added pressure on the education system to accommodate new students. Educational technology can make take some of this pressure off the education system.
Interestingly, the Middle East has experienced unique demographic changes over the past few decades with the population increasing from 100 million in 1950 to approximately 380 million in 2000. No other region of the world has grown as rapidly. The youth represent an overwhelmingly large share of the total population. Today, young adults make up 21.5% of the population, whereas children under 15 make up for 45% of the current population. Estimates suggest that total population in the Middle East will reach 600 million by 2025. These demographic changes pose an important challenge for education in decades to come.
These educational challenges can only be resolved with innovation in educational methods and technology. Not only will there be an increase in demand for formal educational, there will also be a demand for different educational outcomes, students will require educational opportunities that do not exist yet. Governments need foresight to see what kind of careers will be important in the future. The profile of human capital this youth bulge will bring with them will ultimately determine how each country in the region will develop in economic, social, political, and cultural terms.
It is necessary to ensure all of these children who make up 45% of the population in the region attend primary schools. At present, the Middle East has succeeded in providing most children with educational opportunities, which has narrowed gender, rural, and socioeconomic gaps in access to schooling. This needs to continue. Further, once everyone is in school, it must be ensured that they do not drop out. It is also of equal importance that they learn the most they can while there.
Moreover, the education systems must be changed to deliver the new skills and expertise necessary to excel in a more competitive environment. The population will need to obtain fundamental as well as specific skills. Dealing with these new challenges will be costly. Thus, the Middle East not only needs to plan how education will be delivered but also how it will be paid for in their policies.
How Educational Technology Can Make a Difference
To accommodate the youth bulge, subjects taught in school may need to change so as to inculcate those skills in citizens that make it easier for them to adapt to an evolving labor market. In a knowledge economy, the ability to communicate and analyze requires a mastery of these basic skills. Unfortunately, copying from the blackboard, writing, and listening to the teachers are still a large part of the teaching method in this region. The focus needs to shift towards group work, creative thinking, and proactive learning. These are the kinds of abilities educational technology promotes.
A youth bulge places different pressures on social infrastructure at different phases of its aging process. The immediate pressure on the Middle East is providing educational opportunities that will lead to gainful employment. Economic liberalization is needed in the region to encourage business development that can employ many potential young employees. This is why educational technology is the best way to create great future citizens.
Education technology has a positive impact on teaching and learning. Panworld Education provides schools with digitalized teaching tools including but not limited to curriculum-integrated digital content, gamification platforms, and language learning. Educational technology thus enriches and enhances the classroom experience. This not only makes learning more fun for students, it makes teaching easier on educators and even helps make the parents more involved in their children’s schooling.
Educational technology has created digital content for interactive learning modules which turn a lesson into a fun exercise that involves the students mentally and holds their attention for longer periods of time than traditional learning methods. Digital learning platforms, up to date with the latest trends in the education and learning industry also helps teachers teach better and students learn better through engagement and enjoyment. Panworld Education also offers platforms that allow teachers to customize and plan their own course digitally, lessening their burden.
With global competition and rapid technological change at the forefront of the economy, a future employee needs to be well-educated and technically skilled while producing value-added, knowledge-intensive goods and services. Lifelong learning has the potential to make the youth of the region ready for this since education is an on-going process and no one is too old to learn. Lifelong learning includes multiple opportunities for individuals to continually renew their knowledge, skills, and competencies with smooth adaptation and response to the changing educational demands of the economy. Education systems in most Middle Eastern countries only allow limited opportunities for individuals to obtain more skills and acquire more knowledge after completing their formal degree or beginning to work. This needs to change.
Meeting the Challenges the Youth Bulge Presents
The nature of education will change as more students are expected to succeed, and succeed at higher levels of achievement. The majority of the increase in demand for education is going to be at the secondary and higher levels of education, which tend to be more costly than primary education to provide. The governments in the region need to allocate resources to these institutions. They also need to upgrade what is taught in schools and how it is taught. Educational technology can enable them, which will further give students the opportunity to acquire the necessary fundamental and transversal skills.
Along with reforming the education system, employment opportunities must become available that can use skilled graduates. If the countries of the region do not succeed in making their economies more open to development and diversification, the educated youth will seek employment in other countries and the region will not benefit as much as they could from increased investment in education. Different types of learning (including digitalized learning, e-learning, and lifelong learning) need to come together to strengthen the link between education institutions and the labor market, with better partnerships and learning endeavors.
Stepping up and meeting the challenges that the youth bulge presents to the schooling and employment systems with the help of educational technology is fundamental to meet the aspirations of the population for a better life. With an education system that provides the skills needed to prosper in the international economy and employment opportunities that can use those skills, the youth bulge can be a driver of growth and social stability in the region.