In other words, let schools decide how to best serve the school community by focusing on data/evidence.
In 2012, the tenth Education for All Global Monitoring Report, Putting Education to Work stated that over 10M people aged 15 to 24 had not completed primary school in the Arab states. This is 1 in 5 of the region’s youth population!
(Look around you… pick 5 adults, imagine if one could not read or write. That is the reality of these stats.)
After monitoring pockets of progress and identifying unfortunate situations that assure the region’s youth a challenge in trying to find a respectable living in the future, it seems the global education community has identified a few areas of consensus. In particular,
- Funding is required, but money alone does not buy quality education
- Good teachers are essential and need to be valued
- All systems need accountability in the form of using and sharing reliable and valid information for decision making
The idea of accountability as a practical supportive mechanism reflects a shift in the education sector in MENA. Education in the Arab states is no longer simply being measured in terms of access. Quality variables are finally being included in any policy and program decisions that hope to have any credibility. The Doha Declaration, where the Arab Ministers committed to establishing quality national standards for all dimensions of the education system“ seems to be having some noticeable effect on the decisions of Ministries of Education in the Arab world.
It is becoming a norm to read about the call for, and use of, evaluation in making educational decisions. The Jordan Education Initiative might still serve as an example of how monitoring and evaluation can be integrated with the strategic work, but there are outside forces encouraging and supporting the accountability of the JEI. Perhaps more promising is the spontaneous public notices from Arab governments sharing information of local education decisions. For example, the Education Ministry in Kuwait signed an agreement with Singapore’s National Education Institute to study and evaluate the education process in Kuwait to develop a plan to prepare teachers. The Abu Dhabi Education Council recently reported that their national testing results demonstrated that students were 6 months ahead of the previous cohort in terms of content knowledge.
So what works?
There are a lot of questions about the best educational policies in MENA. The issues can be thorny with the consistent import of different ideas merging with local policies. After years of changes and variable success, decision makers, parents, and youth in the Arab world are starting to ask questions about what exactly are they getting for these investments of time, effort, and funds? What can be done better? What educational strategies best fit their local needs? And how can they assure the most success for their future?
The days of boasting about large spending on education are not over, but the dawn of a new era seems to be in play. Inputs are still considered important, but there is a shift of focus to outcomes. This year might be the tipping point where the question “so what has X really accomplished?” becomes an automatic question.