The Syrian crisis and refugee influx into Lebanon are putting an unprecedented amount of social and economic pressure on Lebanon’s public education system. Out of a population of 1.5 million Syrian refugees, almost 500,000 are children of school age (3–18 years). The protracted nature of the Syrian crisis and the immense demand for schooling have strained the quality of public education, too.
In response, Lebanon’s Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE), launched the Reaching all Children with Education (RACE) initiative in 2013 to improve access to formal education for Syrian refugees and underprivileged Lebanese—both objectives that have the strong support of the international community.
As a longstanding partner of the Government of Lebanon (GoL), the World Bank has been expanding its support to the education sector. Prior to the onset of the Syrian crisis, it supported the US$40 million Second Education Development Project. In 2015, the World Bank approved a US$32 million Emergency Education System Stabilization Project; and now the Bank will also approve the US$224 million Support to Reaching All Children with Education 2 program (S2R2).
This support includes an exceptional US$100 million of concessional financing from the International Development Association (IDA) to address the education sector’s immediate needs and create the foundations for longer-term recovery. IDA funds are normally only made available to the world’s poorest countries. It also includes a US$4 million grant from the Results in Education for all Children Trust Fund, financed by Norway, Germany, and the United States.
The new S2R2 operation comes in parallel with the launching by MEHE of the second phase of the RACE initiative (RACE 2). During the first phase of RACE, great achievements were made in terms of access to schools. In just five years, the number of Syrian students in Lebanese public education dramatically increased from 18,780 in the 2011/12 school year to 141,722 students in the 2015/16 school year.
S2R2 will continue to help expand access to schools for all children in Lebanon, with an increased focus on improving the quality and inclusiveness of the teaching and learning environment, and on strengthening the national education system, its policies, planning and monitoring capacities.