In its latest report on the situation in Lebanon, the World Bank warned of the dangers threatening the future of education in the country.
The report, titled “Foundations for Building Forward Better: An Education Reform Path for Lebanon”, presented an overview of key challenges facing the education sector.
“The compounded crises that have assailed Lebanon over the past several years –Syrian refugee influx, economic and financial crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Port of Beirut blast– have all put severe strains on an already struggling education system,” the World Bank stated.
It noted that low levels of learning and skills mismatch in the job market put the future of Lebanese children at risk and entail a critical need for more and better targeted investments in the sector.
“Pre-COVID-19 learning levels were already comparatively low, with only 6.3 years of learning taking place, after schooling is adjusted for actual learning. The global pandemic has led to extended school closures since March 2020, which will likely result in a further and significant decrease in learning,” the report said, adding: “Effectively, students in Lebanon are facing a “lost year” of learning.”
The Ministry of Education insisted on holding official exams despite the many voices that rose against the move, taking into account the difficult conditions and challenges that students have gone through, especially public school students who were unable to follow lessons for months as a result of teachers’ strikes and the inability of the relevant departments to provide them with the necessary tools for distance learning.
“We did not expect the minister to insist on holding the exams - in light of everything the country is witnessing - which put us and our families in a very difficult psychological situation,” says Naya Salameh, who is preparing for the intermediate certificate exams scheduled for next month.
Describing the minister’s decision as unjust, Naya tells Asharq Al-Awsat that she was not able to secure a computer to pursue distance learning but “until a month after my colleagues began online classes.”
“Many others in my class have not been able to buy these devices to this day,” she asserts.
Member of the Parliamentary Education Committee, MP Edgard Traboulsi, indicated that he and many other deputies had urged the Education Minister “not to hold the intermediate and secondary certificate exams and instead adopt school grades, but the ministry did not heed their demand on the pretext that many universities would not accept the certificates.”
“The ministry’s lack of confidence in private schools made it insist on exams, knowing that most universities now require the grades for the past 3 educational years, and most of them hold entrance exams,” Traboulsi noted.
“Lebanon needs to urgently reform the education sector and build forward better,” said Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank Mashreq Regional Director.
“Now more than ever, Lebanon needs to invest more and better in improving learning outcomes for children and making sure Lebanese youth are well equipped with the right skills required by the job market to enable them to contribute to Lebanon’s economic recovery,” he added.