Education International
Education International

Arab education unionists address the challenges facing quality education

published 9 December 2014 updated 16 December 2014

Education leaders throughout the Arab region have descended on Amman, Jordan to confront the issues facing their teachers and students to collectively develop solutions on how to overcome the obstacles.

“I think you should be proud today,” began Education International (EI) Deputy General Secretary Haldis Holst as she welcomed delegates to the Second Conference of the Arab Countries Cross-Regional Structure to discuss and debate the issues influencing education in the region.

In thanking the 90 delegates and observers representing EI affiliates in Arab countries for their “valuable perspectives, knowledge, and experience” they have brought to EI, Holst urged those in attendance to be “proud of your own efforts to represent teachers and unions and defend and promote quality education for all children and young people in your countries,” and to especially be “proud of your Arab identity, as well as your national identity.”

The Jordanian Minister of Education, Dr Mohamed Dhunaibat, highlighted that his government considers education crucial for the country’s development, especially for strengthening its democratic process.

“Jordan believes in the need to develop the education sector, and values of citizenship, tolerance and acceptance of others,” he said. “We consider teachers to be the main cornerstone to build our society, so we work with their unions and want to improve their condition.”

He also referred to the fact that his country received Palestinian and Iraqi refugees, and is now receiving Syrian refugees. And even if it has impacted national schools, on the world’s behalf, Jordan is absorbing the costs, ensuring that these 130,000 refugee children, amounting for 12 per cent of all children enrolled in public schools, get the best education possible and still go to school, he said. But it needs help from the international community.

Egypt after the “spring”

In addressing the political turmoil in Egypt, Kamal Mougheeth, a researcher at the country’s National Centre for Education research, asked “could education have played a greater role to stop the situation deteriorating recently?”

In his reference to an Arab “winter” after the Arab “spring” for the middle class and the poor, he identified four main challenges to be met by the education sector, teachers and unions in Arab countries: education institutions should prepare for citizenship; they should prepare for true culture and intellectualism, through critical thinking; belief in sciences and technologies; and professionalism.

The three-day conference, continuing through Wednesday, will tackle the big questions and issues of the region.