In a new report released today, the World Bank called for Lebanon to urgently embark on a comprehensive reform agenda that refocuses the education sector around students and prioritizes improving the quality of education for all. The report pointed out that low levels of learning and a mismatch between skills and labor market needs jeopardize the future of the rising generations in Lebanon, which reveals the urgent need to increase and better target investments in the sector.
The new report, entitled “Building for a Better Future: A Path to Education Reform in Lebanon”, provides an overview of the main challenges facing the education sector. It presents evidence-based solutions based on a diagnostic study of the factors that contribute to the learning crisis, and proposes recommendations for reforming educational policies over the long term. Short, medium and long term. The proposed reform plan is consistent with the objectives of the draft five-year plan of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, which aims to enhance equity and improve educational outcomes and governance in the education sector. The report also relies on the latest available research in the education sector, including studies conducted within the framework of the Research for Results program launched in 2016.
The report stresses that the worsening crises that have afflicted Lebanon for a few years – represented by the influx of Syrian refugees, the economic and financial crisis, the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, and the explosion of the Port of Beirut – have caused severe pressures on an already faltering educational system. Learning levels were relatively low before the Corona pandemic, with the expected number of years of schooling adjusted according to the amount of learning only 6.3 years. The global pandemic has led to the closure of schools for extended periods starting in March 2020, which will likely lead to a further decline in the level of learning, as students in Lebanon are already facing a “lost school year.” Despite efforts being made to reopen schools, a more systematic approach to planning is required at the district level and in close cooperation with district administrators, as responding to the crisis requires local solutions.
Commenting on this, Saroj Kumar Jha, Regional Director of the Mashreq Department at the World Bank, said: “It is imperative that Lebanon work urgently to reform the education sector and create a better future. Now, more than ever, Lebanon must invest more in both quantity and quality in improving outcomes. education for children, and ensuring that Lebanese youth are equipped with the skills required by the labor market to enable them to contribute to the country’s economic recovery.”
The multiple crises and the resulting increase in poverty rates have directly affected the demand for education services and school dropout rates, as more than half of the population is likely to be below the national poverty line. With the economic downturn, declining purchasing power, and a sharp deterioration in living conditions, it is expected that more parents will move their children from private schools to public schools in the coming years, and the dropout rates of children from schools will also increase, especially among marginalized families. The report presents the main aspects of restructuring the financing of the education sector in order to support a more efficient and equitable system and to prevent further educational loss.
The report presents for discussion recommendations for reform at the sector level in the medium term within seven main strategic axes:
1) restructuring the financing of the sector;
2) a diagnostic study to support efforts to overcome the learning crisis;
3) improving the mechanisms for benefiting teachers and the quality of teaching;
4) the school environment and educational accountability measures;
5) education strategy and curriculum reform;
6) early childhood education;
7) Transition from school to the labor market. These recommendations for action address the main challenges within the sector, and call for possible approaches in order to address the growing learning crisis, meet the growing demand for public education in the country, while at the same time restoring equity and efficiency.