The challenges in the education sector in Lebanon

The Syrian Crisis entered its eleventh year this March. It continues to drive the most significant refugee crisis in the world. Today, more than one and a half million Syrian refugees live within Lebanon’s borders. Almost 65% of them are children in need of affordable quality education opportunities. In addition to that, several thousand Lebanese residents and Palestinian refugees are in need of subsidised education services too. Of course, they are also harder to get with the weight of the Syrian refugee influx.

With over 25% of Lebanese and 75% of refugee households now living under the poverty-line, many poor families are trying to find other ways to cope with the current challenges. Some of these ways entails their children to go through child labor and child marriage. Thousands of children are given to the hands of violence, abuse and exploitation.

According to the law, all Lebanese children should have access to education free from any from of discrimination, including persons with disabilities. They all should have the right to education, health and other basic rights. In reality, the educational path of children with disabilities in Lebanon is characterised by logistical, social and economic downsides. This brings them to often face compromised school experiences, if they succeed in enrolling at all.

Regional disparities in education

One of the most recent reports of Lebanon education sector shows that Lebanon overall pathway is covered with downsides. These are: limited political commitment to education, and unpredictable regressive education and financing policy. Other challenges, in the north of Lebanon, include confessionalism, institutional organizational fragility, sector inefficiencies and ineffective enabling private sector in education. More in concrete, there are regional disparities in access to primary and secondary education in Lebanon. For Example, the average school enrolment rate for primary education reached 98.3% in 2009. However, when examining the rate at the sub-national level, researches show a rupture in enrolment rates in North Lebanon.

Free primary education was introduced in 1960, yet private schooling remains an important element of education for a large segment of Lebanese children. Lebanon has the highest literacy rate for men and women youth among Algeria, Egypt, Syria and Tunisia in 2015. It has the second highest rate for adults following Jordan. Although, there is a large knowledge gap between the rich and the poor students. Only 5% of low-income families send their children to private schools. At a university level, there is only one public university which enrolls a large percentage of the country’s college students. The Lebanese education system faces daily challenges in order to generate graduates in the fields required in the 21st century workplace, especially the high-technology reliant workplaces. The number of university graduates has been increasing over the years with around 37% enrolled in the country’s only public university.

The gap between public and private schools

Other challenges that the government has to face to create a better educational service are: narrowing the gap between private and public schools, improve the performance of the Lebanese University and vocational and technical education, consolidate state supervisory and regulatory role over private education. The country has also failed to produce a single history book, which fuels sectarian tensions in the country. It is inevitable for the Lebanese society, to tackle complicated facts of recent history in Lebanon. Without a proper and consolidate history, a climate of mistrust between different religious communities may continue. To move forward, abolishing political sectarianism is needed in order to reform the overall Lebanese system. The educational system should be focused on improving the quality of public schools and promoting access to education in rural and remote areas too.

A comprehensive and inclusive reconstruction of the educational system is needed in order to overcome any kind of unwanted event. This would include reforming the Lebanese University and focusing on vocational training as well. It includes the production of a new history book, and the reinforcement of the supervisory and standard role of education, especially within the private sector, to teach and spread national unity and reconciliation in Lebanon. Education is a right for any human being and should not be denied to anyone. Lebanon is still working on creating an affordable and efficient educational system, which will include every child within the country and will provide a good base to take over life and their adulthood.

Pierre El Sokhn

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