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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 February 2008, 00:24 GMT
Arab education 'falling behind'
By Dale Gavlak
BBC News, Amman

Iraqi boys take their final examinations on 29 May 2007 in Baghdad
Sixty percent of the Arab World's population is under 30 years old
The World Bank has said the quality of education in the Arab world is falling behind other regions and needs urgent reform if it is to tackle unemployment.

In a report, bank officials said Arab states had to make improving education their top priority, because it went hand-in-hand with economic development.

The region had not seen the increasing literacy and school enrolment witnessed in Asia and Latin America, they said.

Djibouti, Yemen, Iraq and Morocco were ranked the worst educational reformers.

'Youthful region'

In its report, the World Bank issued a stark warning about the need for better education in the Arab world.

If we are to create such jobs, then we have to start with education
Marwan Muasher
World Bank

It said that although education was becoming more accessible and the gender gap was being reduced, the region had not witnessed the positive changes seen in Asia and Latin America, particularly in literacy rates and enrolments in secondary schools and universities.

A senior World Bank official, Marwan Muasher, told the BBC that educational reform had to take top priority if the region's youth were to be better equipped in a fast-changing world and high unemployment combated.

"The time has come for countries to focus their energies on the quality of education and making sure that students are equipped with what they need for the labour market needs now - the ability to solve problems, critical thinking, innovation, and teacher retraining," he said.

WORLD BANK REPORT

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The report said unemployment in the Arab world averaged 14%, which is higher than other areas in the world, except Sub-Saharan Africa, with the Palestinian territories coming highest with nearly 26% percent.

Mr Muasher said educational reform went hand in hand with economic development, especially given the region's extremely high youth population.

"It's a very youthful region - 60% of the region's population is under 30 years of age, close to 100m new jobs will need to be created over the next 10 to 15 years in the Arab world," he explained.

"If we are to create such jobs, then we have to start with education."

The report concluded that Jordan and Kuwait were the top educational reformers in the region, while Djibouti, Yemen, Iraq and Morocco ranked lowest in terms of access, efficiency and quality of education.

Another study carried out in January by the Tunis-based Arab League Educational Cultural and Scientific Organisation found that 30% of the approximately 300 million people in the Arab World were illiterate.

SEE ALSO
More children into primary school
30 Nov 07 |  Education
Illiteracy 'hinders world's poor'
09 Nov 05 |  Education
UN 'will miss education target'
09 Nov 04 |  Special Reports

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