The education 2030 agenda underscores quality access to higher education as a critical factor for lifelong learning and sustainable development. Higher education constitutes technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university. Globally, the interest is to have a more human centered view of higher education as a means for stimulating critical and creative thinking. In addition, higher education is a platform for research, knowledge generation and dissemination and developing solutions for local and global problems in all fields.
To ascertain economic productivity the role of technical, vocational, tertiary institutions and universities are supposed to increasingly focusing on labour market requirements and skills for employability. Technological advancement is also gaining in higher education and in particular access to technology for Open Educational Resources (OERs) and distance education. Education 2030 agenda emphasizes equitable access to higher education for all and in particular, vulnerable groups.
In this perspective, the third target for the member states on SDG 4 requires that:
By 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university
It is important countries put emphasis on policies that are to expanding opportunities for technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university. The discussion in this policy brief looks at the context, situation analysis and recommendations on targets and actions for participation of their populations in higher education.
Context The UNESCO Arab state region consists of 19 countries drawn from Northern Africa, the Levant and the Arabian Peninsula that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean. The countries are clustered into four categories: Developed (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman); Least developing countries (Mauritania, Sudan and Yemen); Mashreq (Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria); and Maghreb (Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia).
Most Arab countries are characterized by: a youth bulge; a large informal economy; and almost 35‐50% of the employed are working in non‐agriculture sector. The Region experienced low rates of employment, of up to 15% in 2013. Since the year 2000, the Arab States Region countries have made considerable progress in achieving the Education for All goals. However, the most significant challenge to progress in education is conflict, which exacerbates inequality, poverty, exclusion and marginalization and in particular access to quality education. In this context, this policy brief analyses and discusses the situation on the participation of their populations in higher education in the Arab States Region.
The area of focus for SDG 4 target 3 is participation in tertiary education programmes, including technical and vocational and adult formal and non-formal education and training. Participation is measured based on three indicators, namely: 1) Gross enrolment ratio for tertiary education (18-22); 2) Participation rate in technical-vocational education and training (TVET) programmes (15- to 24-yearolds); and 3) Participation rate of adults (15+) in formal and non-formal education and training. All these measure enrolments in the various levels as a proportion of the relevant age cohorts.
A number of countries in the Arab States Region have taken steps to expand vocational education to the tertiary education level. However, the proportion of secondary education enrolment in technical and vocational schools in the Arab States declined from 14% in 1999 to 9% in 2011. As at 2008, the GER for tertiary education was 21%. The number of Arab State Region universities expanded from 233 Universities in 2003 to 500 in 2012. In 2003, the enrolment in university was 5.9 million rising to 8.2 million in 2009 and 9.4 million in 2013. The female students in the universities accounted for 49.6% of the total enrolment in 2009 and 2013.
Various studies indicate that women, while enrolling in relatively large numbers across much of the Arab world, are over-represented in such fields as arts, humanities, education, and nursing, and underrepresented in professional and scientific fields. In Egypt, for example, women represent roughly 72 percent of the total enrollment in the fields of Arts, humanities, and education, while comprising less than 30 percent of the total enrollment in engineering.
Policy Recommendations Based on the existing data, the Arab States Region require an elaborate strategy and informed actions to deliver quality all-inclusive access in primary and secondary education. To achieve this, requires the following policy recommendations:
The Arab States have the opportunity to set strategic approaches to inform actions to deliver and monitor progress towards equal access to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university. The proposed strategies in this target focus on participation. i. Implement policies on collaboration in vocational skills development, TVET and tertiary education
The countries require policies that address skills development in TVET, tertiary education and lifelong learning opportunities. More important is sstrengthening collaboration between science and policy to keep pace with changing contexts and remain relevant; and develop effective partnerships for public and private sector. ii. Establish a framework that recognizes the qualification and certification of tertiary education institutions
Ensure quality assurance, comparability and recognition of tertiary education qualifications. Facilitate credit transfers between recognized tertiary educational institutions.
iii. Develop policies and programmes on open courses and distance learning
Develop policies and programmes for the provision of quality distance learning education. Implementation of the policies will recquire appropriate financing, and access to technology, including through internet, massive open online courses (MOOCs) and other modalities that meet accepted quality standards.
iv. Expand opportunities for access to TVET, tertiary education and university and adult learning, education and training
Expansion of TVET, tertiary education and university and adult learning, education and training will provide opportunities for young people and adults of all ages, with particular attention to gender equality and vulnerable groups such as those with disabilities including the elimination of gender-based barriers.
UNESCO (2015) Education 2030 Incheon declaration and Framework for Action: Towards Inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all
UNESCO (2015) The Arab States Regional Conference on Education Post-2015- ARCEP Conference Report