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Refugee education headlines long list of priorities for the Arab region

published 6 February 2015 updated 5 March 2015

Faced with increasing numbers of refugees and internally displaced peoples fleeing conflict and political unrest, the Arab region addressed the urgent need for quality education in affected countries at a recent UNESCO event in Egypt.

When representatives from Education International (EI) convened in Egypt to meet with ministers and senior officials of education ministries from countries in the region, they had to opportunity to directly address many pressing issues facing education, including the major influx of refugees fleeing regional conflicts. The team from EI made clear that physical access to education alone is not enough, referring to oversized classrooms, but that it must be linked to education quality.

Equity, particularly with regards to marginalised communities, poor households, learners with physical and learning disabilities, and those living in rural and remote areas, especially girls, is also considered a high regional priority.

Education International wasn’t alone in voicing its concerns at the UNESCO Arab States Regional Conference on Education Post-2015, from 26-29 January in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, where they were joined by other regional and international organisations, civil society and non-government organisations (NGOs) to define the region’s priorities and recommendations for education.

UNESCO is currently engaged in several interrelated processes aimed at assessing national progress in the six Education for All (EFA) goals and shaping the future of education within the broader global development agenda Post-2015, in the Arab region and elsewhere.

Unions’ voice must be heard

During the three days of debates, where regional trends’ analysis was presented through EFA national reports, it was clear that much remains to be done to achieve EFA.

According to EI’s Chair of the Arab Countries Cross-Regional Structure, Taher Dhaker, priorities must be formulated in dialogue with civil society and trade unions representing teachers. This would give education unions an opportunity to share experiences and expertise and to shape the education agenda.

Dhaker also highlighted that teachers’ education and training, as well as their working conditions and status, are key elements in improving education quality and reaching the EFA goals. Accordingly, it is vital that all learners are taught by qualified, professionally trained, motivated, and well-supported teachers.

Emphasis also leaned toward early childhood education and care, as its bears many long-life benefits for the student, and on the transition between primary and secondary education, especially for girls.

Next steps

These regional recommendations will feed into the global development agenda and inform policy dialogue and the international framework for action to be discussed at the World Education Forum in Incheon, Republic of Korea, on 19-22 May, and during the UN General Assembly in September.