KUWAIT CITY, March 9, 2014 – Identifying and implementing strategic choices to improve education systems in the Arab world is the focus of a nine-day course sponsored by the World Bank in association with the International Monetary Fund (IMF)-Middle East Center for Economics and Finance (CEF).
The course, Strategic Choices for Education Reform in Arab Countries, brings together 35 representatives from 13 Ministries of Education and Higher Education, national centers of Education Development and Training, universities, and Offices of International Cooperation. Presentations will focus on familiarizing the participants with topics related to the World Bank’s latest Education Strategy 2020: Learning for All. The trainers will address key challenges facing education systems in the region and the necessary solutions drawing on global evidence, experiences, and best practices. The session is part of a series of human development related courses held in partnership between the World Bank and the IMF Center.
“Indeed human development issues are live ones across the region, and when it comes to investing in skills and people, nothing is more important than enhancing the quality of education in empowering everyone (including girls and women) to fulfill their potential and live rewarding lives” said Philippe Karam, International Monetary Fund—CEF Acting Director echoing IMF Managing Director, Mme Lagarde’s words during her last visit to Kuwait in November 2013.
The World Bank Education Strategy 2020: Learning for All highlights the importance of “investing early, investing smartly, and investing for all” as countries attempt to improve the quality of their education systems. Governments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are making considerable financial investments in education but student achievement in international standardized tests are not up to par. Moreover, youth unemployment continues to rise and graduates often lack the requisite skills to compete in the job market. Building fair, accountable, and responsive systems will be central to the provision of high quality education services and meeting the region’s social and economic needs.
“Several countries in the Arab world have made strides in expanding access to education but they need to now shift towards improving the quality and relevance of the education systems,” said Bassam Ramadan, World Bank Country Manager in Kuwait. “Ministries of education will need to ensure what they provide is in line with today’s labor market and societal needs, and this means better and more regular use of all relevant data.”
The World Bank is well positioned to work with MENA countries on transformative education sector reforms. The Bank can mobilize data, information, experiences and interventions stemming from its five decades of experience in the education sector in over 150 countries from around the world to create systems, policies, and institutions that are more fair, accountable, and responsive to people’s needs.
“Providing top quality, relevant education today requires governments to think more long-term and systemically,” said Hana Brixi, World Bank Sector Manager for Education in the MENA region. “Governments need to facilitate citizen engagement in education at the level of policies and public expenditures as well as schools. They also need to strengthen linkages and cooperation within the education sector, and increase ties with relevant external partners such as employers.”
The course emphasizes that achieving the goal of developing life-long learners today will require ministries and other agencies providing education and training to do their work in truly new and innovative ways. Ministries will need to become ‘learning organizations’ and shift their focus away from simply providing educational inputs to more innovatively pursuing ways to achieve better learning outcomes.