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Questions & Answers : The Road Not Traveled - Education Reform in the Middle East and North Africa

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What is the objective of the report?
What is the scope of the report?
What is the methodology used by the report team?
What are the key messages of the report?
What are the key education challenges in the MENA region?
What is the "New Road" recommended by the report?
How is the World Bank supporting education reforms in the MENA region?
Who are the targeted audience for report dissemination?

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What is the objective of the report, "The Road Not Traveled : Education Reform in the Middle East and North Africa"?
  • This report aims to support policymakers in the region chart develop more effective education strategies that is based on global and regional experience in the sector.
  • The report is grounded in a new paradigm that is expected to increase the effectiveness of reform efforts: it emphasizes the central role of incentives and public accountability to meet sector goals.

What is the scope of the report?

  • The report explores whether past investments in education have generated their maximum economic returns. Further, the report examines the development impact of investment in education such as the impact of demographic changes, globalization and the knowledge economy, migration, and the role of labor market. The report covers all levels of instruction; including basic, secondary and higher education.

What is the methodology used by the report team?

  • The report team relied on both qualitative and quantitative research methods using analytical and comparative approaches to assess the effectiveness of education reform strategies in MENA.
  • Education outcomes in the region are compared with education outcomes in other developing countries. Education reform strategies in MENA are assessed using a new analytical framework which proposes well-balanced combination of engineering, incentives, and public accountability. Finally, labor market outcomes are evaluated on the basis of how well these markets function, given past reform efforts.
  • The preparation of this report has also benefited from the support of a network of scholars, practitioners and opinion leaders, within and outside the region.

What are the key messages of the report?

  • Education is at the crossroads for the future of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).  It plays crucial role in promoting poverty alleviation and economic growth, both at national and household levels. Various stakeholders in the region regard education as their most important development challenge, and education reform is on top of the reform agenda of many regional governments.
  • Having succeeded in expanding the education systems to include most eligible children, boys and girls, the MENA region is now ready to travel a new road. While the exact configuration of this new road will not be the same for each country, all countries, irrespective of their initial conditions, will require a shift from "engineering inputs" to "engineering for results", along with a combination of incentives and public accountability measures, as well as measures to improve labor market outcomes.
  • Labor market reforms will need to be implemented hand in hand with those for the education system proper.  In the case of MENA, the relevant labor market extends much farther than the confines of any country or even the region because of important migration trends and opportunities.

What are the key education challenges in the MENA region?

  • 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.
  • In addition, new challenges are on the horizon.  First, and most important, the MENA region now has one of the largest cohorts of young people in the world, in proportion to its population.  As this cohort works its way through the education system, it will generate unprecedented demands for new learning opportunities, and even stronger expectation of better results.  Second, globalization has led to a demand for a different mix of skills and competencies, and this will influence the content and nature of what education systems should provide.  Finally, MENA countries are already spending a fairly large share of public resources on education – additional demands for better services will require greater efficiencies and a diversification of funding.

What is the "New Road" recommended by the report?

  • The "New Road" requires a new balance of engineering, incentives, and public accountability measures. Simultaneously, it requires renewed emphasis on reforming domestic and external labor markets.
  • The exact form of the new road for each country will not be the same, since some countries have already carried out more education reforms and achieved better results than others. Thus, the reform agenda for each country will differ, depending on initial conditions. However, all countries will need to find a new combination of engineering, incentives, and public accountability, along with measures to improve labor market outcomes.

How is the World Bank supporting education reforms in the MENA region?

  • Education is a strategic priority for the Bank in the MENA region and worldwide.  The preparation of this report has benefited from the experience accumulated from Bank collaboration with the region in education– a relationship that has lasted for more than forty years.  Tunisia received in the early 1960s the first World Bank loan for any education project worldwide.

Who are the targeted audience for report dissemination?

  • In June 2007, a pre-launch event was organized by the report team in Egypt.  The event brought together senior policy makers representing countries in the region.  The findings of the report were presented and discussed based on country experiences, best practices and challenges encountered in ongoing reform processes. The objective of the launch in Jordan is to have a wider dissemination of the flagship report on education among policy makers, education practitioners, and citizens in MENA countries. Jordan offers a pioneering education reform experience in MENA.  Supported by a high level political commitment and a vision for global integration, the education sector in Jordan has made significant strides toward the development of a knowledge economy. Organized under the auspices of Her Royal Highness Queen Rania, the launch will offer a platform for presenting the key messages of the report while providing the opportunity for country delegates to share their’ feedback on the report, as well as their knowledge and experience in developing more effective reform strategies.



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