Seventeen Arab states have agreed upon the urgent need to improve the quality of education across the region and implement a system of evaluating the performance of schools, teachers and students.
The pledge came at the end of recent meeting of education ministers in Doha organized by the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development; the World Bank and the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organisation (Alecso); in coordination with the Supreme Education Council of Qatar.
The states which took part in the ‘Ministerial Colloquium on Quality of Education in the Arab World’ were Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Oman, the Palestinian National Authority, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, the UAE and Yemen.
As per the agreement, developing the evaluation system will be entrusted to Alesco, particularly their Arab Educational Observatory and the results of the evaluation will be made public and shared among participating countries.
These steps towards the improvement of education quality are formalised through the ‘Doha Declaration on Education Quality in the Arab world.’
International assessments, as presented to the ministers during the colloquium, suggested that young people in the Arab world currently leave school with levels of numeracy and literacy below global average, and with a lesser command of skills increasingly sought by employers, such as the ability to analyze complex information, think critically and communicate effectively.
In response to these issues, the Doha Declaration stated that high-quality education should equip students to become active citizens in their communities.
Restructured national education systems should be “characterized by autonomy, accountability, and clear and transparent education policies” and encourage broad community participation. The declaration commits the signatories to continuous collection of data in order to enable transparent evaluation and assessment, and the spread of best practices.’
“We all know that our best asset is our people, but this wealth will only be realized through judicious investment,” said Dr. Abdulla bin Ali Al-Thani, vice president, Education, Qatar Foundation, chairman of the World Innovation Summit for Education (Wise), and one of the initiators of the project.
“Education has been the first pillar of Qatar Foundation’s human development mission for the past 15 years. Therefore, I’m very pleased that it is now being placed at the forefront of the regional agenda,” Dr Al-Thani said.
“The capacity of countries in the Arab world to compete in the global economy depends on their being able to meet the rapidly escalating demand for high-level skills,” said Dr Mohammed Al-Aziz Ibn Ashour, director general of Alecso.
“Quality of education has a positive impact on the lives of individuals and on national economic growth, and by sharing information and best practices, we all stand to gain,” he noted.
‘The Arab world has made great strides in getting children into school,’ said Shamshad Akhtar, World Bank vice president for the Mena region.
“And now there is a new set of challenges. As school systems reach maximum levels of participation, concerns about quality multiply,” she added.
“My fellow ministers and I frequently share our experiences in upgrading our education systems,” said Saad bin Ibrahim Al Mahmoud, Minister of Education and Higher Education of Qatar and host of the Ministerial Colloquium.
“Now we shall be working within a structure which will bring about a more productive learning process. Despite the educational mobility witnessed by the Arab world through our various initiatives, we are still working to meet the aspirations of our societies and global academic standards,” he added.