The education 2030 agenda puts emphasis on youth and adults acquisition of skills for employment, access to decent jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities. Education and training systems prepare youth and adults for the world of work, facilitate the school-to-work transition and help them move to better quality jobs. Investments in education and skills development are instrumental to value addition and economic growth.
The process of harnessing skills for employment requires improving the links between education, training and the world of work. These involves enhancing technical vocational education and training (TVET) through having apprenticeships, models for work experiences and supporting second-chance initiatives for those who leave school early or never attended. Systems that recognize prior learning and making education and training affordable to all are also required. In addition, programmes should integrate technology in skills development based on labour market needs.
The priority goal setting for all the countries to achieve SDG 4 as stated in Target 4.4 is that,
“By 2030, increase by [x] per cent the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship”
This calls for deliberate policies and actions that target the youths and adults to gain relevant skills within the education 2030 agenda and contribute to productive activities in an economy. In this policy brief, the context and situational analysis of the Arab States region is presented followed by policy recommendations. The policy recommendations are suggested actions for creating an enabling environment for skills development as well as access to employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship.
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).
In the Arab States most of the poor people live in rural areas while the young people in urban areas they tend to become quite desperate. In urban areas, there is a huge difference between being rich and poor in terms of having skills or not having. For example, in Egypt 45% of the poorest 15-24 year olds who live in urban areas are without foundation skills while among the rich only 3%. In Morocco, 76% of the poorest young people in urban areas are without foundation skills compared to 90% of the rural poorest.
Youth unemployment is a growing concern in the Arab States Region and is about 25% compared to 6% for adults. In Egypt, youth unemployment is six times as high as unemployment for older people. Young people will either be unemployed or forced to take work earning a low wage if they lack foundation skills. In North Africa, 20% of youth are unemployed. The unemployment situation is also linked to the level of skills development.
Situation Analysis The area of focus for target 4 of the education 2030 agenda is skills for youth and adults. One of the indicators for tracking progress for this target is the proportion of youth/adults with ICT skills by type of skills. Despite increased awareness and understanding of the skills involved over the years TVET became a lower priority in Arab. In 2012, technical and vocational programmes accounted for about 9% of total secondary enrolment in the region, which was a decline from 14% in 1999. The
share of TVET in total secondary enrolment declined in the majority of 12 countries with data, and by almost 8% in Bahrain between 1999 and 2012. However, in Lebanon the percentage increased by nearly 5% in 2012.
On average 1 in 5 young people (equivalent of 10.5 million young people) did not complete primary education in the Arab States thus they struggle to find a well paying job. For young people to be paid a decent wage, they should have a minimal of lower secondary education. The proportion of secondary education enrolment in technical and vocational schools in the Arab States declined from 14% in 1999 to 9% in 2011. In Mauritania, almost 7 out of 10 young people do not have foundation skills compared to 2 out of 3 young Moroccans. One of the major setbacks for young people acquiring foundation skills for work is poverty. For Example, in Egypt upper secondary education is almost universal among the rich but 1 in 5 of the poor did not make it to primary school. This has contributed to high unemployment rates and low paying jobs.
The skills acquired through education are crucial for the well-being of young people and adults and economic prosperity. In the Arab states, there is an increase in secondary school enrolment but tertiary education is low. However tertiary education is slowly catching up as many countries in the Arab states are struggling to expand appropriate learning and life skill programmes.
Policy Recommendations In order address the skills requirements for the youth and adult, the Arab States have to put in place appropriate actions. The proposed strategies in this target should focus on the following policy recommendations:
i. Facilitate research framework on skills development and technology that address labour market demands Gather and use evidence to guide skills development in view of changing skills demand. Put in place mechanisms that inform changing labour market, contexts and societal needs, including those of the "informal economy" and rural development.
ii. Develop and implement curricula in education and training addressing employable skills in the labour market
Engage social partners in designing and delivering education and training programmes that are evidence-based and holistic. Ensure that TVET curricula and training programmes are of high quality and include both work-related skills and transferable skills, including entrepreneurial and basic ICT skills.
iii. Strengthen mechanisms for engagement of the youth in work-based and classroom-based training entrepreneurship Support on the job training, apprenticeship system and school -based technical education to allow exposure to labour market skills to those in education and training institutions.
iv. Put in place an efficient TVET quality assurance and qualification framework Develop a qualification framework for TVET Ensure transparent, efficient TVET quality assurance systems and qualifications frameworks.
v. Promote TVET skills exchange and transfer among the member states Promote collaboration on enhancing transparency and cross-border recognition of TVET qualifications to raise the quality of TVET programmes and enable workers and learners mobility and to ensure TVET programmes to keep pace with the changing labour and market demands.
References UNESCO (2015) Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2015. Education for All 2000-2015: Achievements and Challenges. UNESCO (2015b) Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2013/14. Teaching and Learning: Achieving Quality for All.