According to a new World Bank report, Lebanon needs to urgently embark on a comprehensive reform agenda that puts students at the center of the education sector and prioritizes quality of education for all. Low levels of learning and skills mismatch in the job market have put the future of generations of Lebanese children at risk and imply a critical need for more and better targeted investments in the sector.
The report, titled “Foundations for Building Forward Better: An Education Reform Path for Lebanon”, presents an overview of key challenges facing the education sector. It provides evidence-based solutions founded on a diagnostic of the factors contributing to the learning crisis and proposes policy reform recommendations over the short- and medium- to long-terms.
The proposed reform plan is in line with the objectives of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education’s 5-year draft sector plan, which aims to improve equity, learning outcomes, and governance in education. The report also draws from the latest available education sector research, including studies conducted under the Research for Results Program launched back in 2016.
The compounded crises that have assailed Lebanon over the past several years –Syrian refugee influx, economic and financial crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Port of Beirut blast– have all put severe strains on an already struggling education system.
Pre-COVID-19 learning levels were already comparatively low, with only 6.3 years of learning taking place, after schooling is adjusted for actual learning. The global pandemic has led to extended school closures since March 2020, which will likely result in a further and significant decrease in learning.
Effectively, students in Lebanon are facing a “lost year” of learning. Despite efforts to reopen schools, a more systematic approach for planning at the district level, in close collaboration with regional education office directors, is needed as the response requires local solutions.
Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank Mashreq Regional Director, said: “Lebanon needs to urgently reform the education sector and build forward better. Now more than ever, Lebanon needs to invest more and better in improving learning outcomes for children and making sure Lebanese youth are well equipped with the right skills required by the job market to enable them to contribute to Lebanon’s economic recovery”.
The multiple crises and the resulting increase in poverty rates, with more than half the population likely below the national poverty line, have also directly impacted demand for education and student retention.
The contraction in the economy, plummeting purchasing power and the steep deterioration in living conditions will likely lead more parents to shift their children to public schools in the coming years, as well as higher student drop-outs, especially among marginalized households.
The report presents key aspects for restructuring the education sector financing in support of a more efficient and equitable system and to prevent further learning loss.
The report puts forward for discussion sector-wide mid-term reform recommendations across seven key strategic areas:
- Restructuring Sector Financing;
- Diagnostics to Support Overcoming the Learning Crisis;
- Improvements of Teacher Utilization and Quality of Teaching;
- School Environment and School Accountability Measures;
- Education Strategy and Curriculum Reform;
- Early Childhood Education; and
- School to Work Transitions and Youth.
These recommendations for action tackle key challenges within the sector and approaches towards addressing the growing learning crisis and meeting the increased demand for public education in the country while regaining equity and efficiency.