Dina El Naggar (1-202) 473-3245
AMMAN, February 4, 2008 – Countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have made significant progress in reforming educational systems to expand access to all levels of education and reduce gender disparity. Yet, these achievements remain below other countries at similar levels of economic development. Also, the relationship between education and economic growth has remained weak, and the divide between education and employment has not been bridged. These are some of the findings of a new World Bank report titled “The Road Not Traveled – Education Reform in MENA.”
The flagship report was launched in Amman under the Patronage of Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah, a keen advocate for promoting access to quality education, in a ceremony sponsored jointly by the Jordanian Government and the World Bank Group. Her Excellency Minister Suhair Al-Ali, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, who represented Her Majesty, was joined by the Jordanian Minister of Education and other senior policy makers from the Jordanian government as well as a distinguished group of participants including ministers of education from the MENA region and representatives of the private sector, civil society and the media.
In his keynote address, Marwan Muasher, World Bank Senior Vice President for External Affairs highlighted the need for more reforms. “The quality of education in the region has not kept up with the needs of the economy. Education systems do not support adequately the development by girls and boys of analytical skills, problem solving skills, critical thinking and innovation. It is time to pay greater attention to these skills, to reach if not even exceed the level of attention given to illiteracy and school enrollment.” he added.
According to the report, countries in the region need to advance reform in three areas: shifting emphasis on buildings and material "inputs" to "results" and partnerships with stakeholders, (ii) shifting management practices toward incentives to promote better performance and responsiveness of education service providers, and (ii) shifting from accountability to the state to accountability to the public to ensure that education as a public good reaches the greatest number of citizens.
“There is widely shared recognition of the critical role that education plays in shaping the opportunities of the young people of the MENA region, and strong political commitment to making education more relevant to the needs of today's economy. Education reform is urgent to address the challenge of unemployment and integration in the global economy,” said Daniela Gressani, World bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa Region.
The report concludes that each country in the region would need to chart its own path for the new reforms. “The starting point will vary depending on progress achieved so far. The new road requires a new balance of engineering, incentives and public accountability measures but the exact configuration of the new road for each country will not be the same “ said Michal Rutkowski, Sector Director of the Middle East and North Africa Human Development Department.