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Education: Improving access and quality of education in Yemen

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A Future for All in Yemen‎
Advocating for Girls’ Education


For almost three decades, the International Development Association (IDA) has actively helped increase access to, and the quality of, educational services in Yemen. The main achievements are the expansion of the education system at all levels, which helped halve the illiteracy rate to 45 percent from 90 percent, increased the gross enrollment rate in primary education to 87 percent in 2008-09 from 68 percent in 1998-99 and to 78 percent in 2008-09 for girls from 49 percent in 1998-99.



While the illiteracy rate was halved to 45 percent from 90 percent over the past three decades, many challenges remain including the gap in reaching the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of universal primary school enrollment by 2015. This is particularly challenging given the country’s significant population growth and deep poverty. In addition, gender equity is a major issue in Yemen. Fewer girls than boys enrol in school (particularly in rural areas), many tend to be over-age and most drop out before completing basic education.


Studies have indicated that the lack of female teachers is one of the factors resulting in low enrolment and retention of girls in schools, particularly in higher grades when parents tend to object to male teachers. High teacher absenteeism and insufficient teaching materials are other hurdles in the expansion of quality education in Yemen. The sector faces poor quality of student learning achievement, and weak linkages between what students learn and what the labor market demands. The sector also suffers from a lack of efficiency and effectiveness in using limited financial resources and weak management capacity.


Over the past three decades, IDA has provided assistance for development of all education system sub-sectors, including basic and secondary, tertiary, and vocational education. IDA projects have evolved over time, moving from a support focused mainly on the supply side (classrooms, teachers training, curriculum and instructional material development) to an increasing emphasis on the demand side through local communities’ involvement.


In general education, IDA and a core group of partner countries (Germany, The Netherlands and UK) are supporting two main projects: the Basic Education Development Project, and the Secondary Education Development and Girls Access Project, both building on the success of the Basic Education Expansion Project of 2001-2007.


Both projects cover a broad area of activities aiming at improving access to, and quality of education, with a specific focus on girls’ education, particularly in rural areas. They also aim to build the capacity of the Ministry of Education at both the central and local levels, and include implementation arrangements that empower Ministry structures. The Secondary Education Development and Girls Access Project provides a platform to address broader sector governance and management issues by bringing together the Ministries of Planning, Finance, Civil Service and Insurance and Local Officials to jointly sign a Protocol of Participation in this Project. Strengthened ownership of the Ministry of Education of those reforms has contributed to the projects achieving their development goals.


Yemen is also part of the Education For All Fast Track Initiative (EFA-FTI). FTI focuses on increasing access of children to primary education in line with the MDG target of achieving universal primary education, and its interventions target the most remote areas in the country where no other IDA project, government intervention or donor project has gone before. Based on the plan agreed in 2003, Yemen received support from the FTI trust fund where IDA was selected as Supervising Entity. Having successfully implemented Phase I and Phase II of the scheme (US$10 million allocated for each phase), Phase III was doubled to $US20 million.


IDA brings to Yemen its international and country-specific experience, in particular, with respect to: (i) demand-driven projects, like the conditional cash transfer schemes, as an incentive to encourage enrollment of girls and the deployment of more qualified female teachers; and (ii) the allocation of financial resources to targeted schools through school councils as a way to introduce quality improvements in the schools and enhance the social control of the utilization of these resources by the school community.


IDA is also involved in higher education, and technical and vocational training through the recently-signed Higher Education Quality Improvement Project, which is scheduled to commence September 2010. This initiative is focused on quality improvement of university programs. IDA is also currently addressing the issue of education and employment through the Second Vocational Training project which aims to provide the public with training systems to wit improved mechanisms to respond to employment needs.

Results achieved with IDA or IBRD Support

Several IDA projects have contributed to Yemen’s impressive gains in gross enrolment ratios for all levels of education. This is reflected as follows:

  • Increase in enrolment in primary education to 87 percent in 2008-09 from 68 percent in 1998-99.
  • Gains in girls’ enrolment were even higher with an increase to 78% in 2008-09 from 49% in 1998-99, reducing by half the gap with male enrolment

The following results have also been achieved with the help of IDA financing:

  • IDA projects have increased access of children in rural Yemen, adding an additional 3,866 classrooms being built between 2001 and 2009;
  • Phase one of the Fast Track Initiative projects constructed 110 schools and rehabilitated 40 existing schools, increasing the total enrolment in targeted governorates by 3 percentage points and the gross enrolment rate for girls by 5 percentage points. Phase two also constructed 102 schools, and rehabilitated 39 schools, again helping increase the enrolment rate by 2 percentage points;
  • Ninety percent of teachers in grades 1-6 participated in annual refresher training between 2001 and 2006 and over 90,000 teachers in basic education have been trained in general and subject-specific training between 2006 and 2010. This quality enhancement of basic education in Yemen has contributed to an improvement in the Grade 6 primary completion rate, with the completion rate for girls growing to 51 percent in 2008/2009 from 38 percent in 2000/2001 and the total primary completion rate increasing to 62 percent in 2008/2009 from 58 percent in 2000/2001;
  • Starting in 2007, authorities committed to contract and train female teachers over a three-year period. According to the Minister of Education, as quoted in Yemen Times, 1,000 new female teachers were contracted in 2008. Anecdotal evidence suggests the contracting of female teachers is indeed attracting girls to school by making girls’ education more culturally acceptable.
  • The Ministry of Education is undergoing a process of modernization at the central and local levels, introducing an Education Management Information System and a new Monitoring and Evaluation framework to improve informed decision-making. The Ministry now undertakes annual work plans under the 2007-2010 Medium-Term Expenditure Framework.
  • Yemen participated in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Studies in 2007 and is in the process of establishing an independent Center of Measurement and Evaluation.
  • Conditional cash transfer schemes were introduced in two governorates in 2008 and 2009 to support girls’ attendance in school. More than 30,000 girls have received the transfers so far.

Bank Financing and other support

The Education sector in Yemen is one of oldest and largest sectors of IDA investment in Yemen. The first education project began in 1974, and the sector currently has four active projects with a fifth signed and expected to be effective by September 2010. Total Bank financing for the five projects amounts to US$133 million, comprising Basic Education Development Project (US$68.66 million), Secondary Education Development and Girls Access project (US$20 million), Fast Track Initiative – Phase III (US$20 million), Second Vocational Training Project (US$ 15 million), and Second Higher Education Project (US$13 million).

IDA has also been instrumental in supporting the development of the sector strategies including through the following analytical and advisory services: National Basic Education Development Strategy (2002); National Strategy for the Development of Vocational and Technical Education (2004); National General Secondary Education Strategy (2007); Yemen National Strategy for Children and Youth (2007); Higher Education Strategy (2006); and the Yemen Education Country Status Report (2010).



The basic education sector in Yemen is characterized by a high degree of donor harmonization. Education receives a large share of the comparatively small amount of Official Development Assistance per capita recipient (just US$13 in 2006). Twelve partners signed a Partnership Declaration in 2004 to coordinate efforts and assistance in the education sector, being: the Governments of Yemen, France, Germany, The Netherlands, and United Kingdom; as well as IDA, the International Labor Organization, the Public Works Project, the Social Fund for Development, UNICEF, and the World Food Programme. In 2007, most of these partners signed the update to this declaration which was also signed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). A new Partnership Declaration, which has been joined by Japan, will be signed in 2010.


Moving Forward

Past projects laid the foundation for a possible future Sector-Wide Approach Project that could reform and improve the entire education system. Efforts taken so far under BEDP and SEDGAP have also strengthened MOE capacity to link the MOE AWP with the national budget in order to connect aid programs with country policies and processes – an issue that will be under discussion.

The Yemen Country Status Report set the stage for the development of a national vision for education. The national vision is to be developed in coordination with line ministries and aims to develop the foundations for a national education system that is linked to the labor market.



With my husband’s support, I insisted on continuing to study. I had to take my children with me to the school and walk almost 8 km to school. Many girls in my community rejected my friendship because I was studying with boys. They thought I was doing something shameful. After finishing my education I worked as a volunteer teacher in Al-Jihad school. When I joined the school, only 10 girls studied there but after I started teaching, the number of girls went up to 72. I have benefited from the female teacher contracting scheme under the Basic Education Development Project. This scheme has a great impact on my life, socially and economically. My role now is not only restricted to teaching but also advocating for girls’ education.

Raysa lives in Uzlat Bani Zyad, Al-Hada district, one of the most conservative and deprived areas in Yemen.


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