The global economic crisis and the Arab Spring have sharpened the challenge to the countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) from a large young population seeking better educational and professional opportunities. A variety of factors have impeded the countries’ abilities to absorb an increasing labor force: excessive GDP volatility; labor demand heavily dominated by the public sector; economies dependent on oil revenues and low value-added products; and weak integration into the global economy.
Creating jobs and increasing productivity are at the top of policymakers’ agenda across the world. We heard this message during the World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings and during the UN General Assembly meetings in New York last month. We read about disaffected youth in rich and less rich countries who have university education but can’t find jobs. I’m not going to argue that education holds the key to these current issues. Undoubtedly, current high unemployment rates owe a lot to the ongoing global economic slump.
Nonetheless, the current economic crisis forces us to examine why too many workers are unprepared to meet the demands from the modern workplace, particularly in increasingly competitive economic environments. Evidence suggests that education systems in many countries are failing young people with respect to basic skills as well as high-level cognitive skills such as critical analysis, problem solving and communication.
One persistent criticism that I hear of educational technology projects in many places -- and especially in Africa -- is that 'there are too many pilot projects'. 'What we really need', or so the lament usually continues, 'are things that scale'. While I don't necessarily agree that more pilot projects are not useful -- to the contrary, I have in the past explored
Leadership can be exercised in many ways and a lot has been written about leadership and empowerment, and about the need to strengthen both in Africa. Very recently, I came across a true female leader, a simple woman with a strong personality, excellent communication and problem-solving skills, and great determination. In sum, all the things we consider to be the basis for good leadership.
She is not a politician or the head of a big company. She is a school teacher in a poor area in the southern province of Namibe, Angola. Her school is part of a group called ZIP (zone of pedagogical influence), and although her school is the poorest among the three in the group, she was chosen as the group’s leader.
In Angola and many places in Africa, parents must purchase report cards which teachers then fill in to send home. In the following account Maria Ines, Head teacher of Tchinducuto, and Director of ZIP 6, describes how her school revamped the purchasing process and found a way to earn money for the students.
|With new learning materials, children are more interested to come to school as learning becomes more enjoyable.|
I’ve always been passionate about the need to focus on education in order to achieve lasting development and this is especially true in Timor-Leste, a country with one of the youngest and fastest growing populations in the world. I visited a number of schools around the country to see the benefits of two of the World Bank’s projects in the education sector: the Fast Track Initiative Bridging Project 2009 and the Education Sector Support Project, co-funded by AusAID.
My learnings from the recently concluded World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings 2011 where I represented India as a youth delegate. I am compiling them all together as lessons I learnt and how it changed my life and rewrote my history and understanding. Forever.
Lesson #1: The world has finally started taking the youth seriously.
Over the past 10 days or so, I had seen and felt that the youth opinion DOES MATTER to the policy makers at the World Bank and IMF. In individual meetings between CSOs, Bank, IMF Staff and Executive Directors, or at the Global Development debate on jobs opportunities for all, or at the flagship event, More and Better Jobs, I have realized that our opinion is acted upon stringently. Youth at the World Bank is a respected and celebrated group. When Jeremy Mark, Deputy Chief of Public Affairs, External Relations Department, encouraged me to go ahead and speak to Ms. Christine Lagarde, MD, IMF about a concern I had on issues in low income economies, I was pleasantly surprised. Honestly, I had not expected this open door policy concept of such higher up officials taking genuine and keen interest in the concerns that a youngster would have about the street children in her country, she is working with. Simply put, this sensitivity amazed me.
When we first discussed the prospects of inviting youth delegates from South Asia to attend the Annual Meetings, I must admit that I was initially ambivalent. However, the launch of More and Better Jobs in South Asia was imminent and it found that the region needs to create over one million new jobs a month over the next two decades to sustain employment for young people. How could we write about prospects for this group without hearing from them? With that in mind, we asked what More and Better Jobs mean to them and received an overwhelming response; over 11,000 application views and hundreds of exceptional applicants.
When the six delegates arrived, I was quickly struck by the intelligence, passion, and honesty that emanated from the group. Additional to the fresh, bold, and articulate ideas on employment themes such as equity, skills, and governance in their essays; they all took initiative for the betterment of their own communities with significant dedication and sacrifices.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that a company interested in attracting investment might want to improve its corporate governance. The link between good governance and investor comfort is well-established, and IFC has seen growing demand for better corporate governance in many countries where there is serious interest in foreign investment.
In light of the Arab Spring and continued focus on the region, we are discovering much about the Arab world. This is a very positive development, which brings to light the many misunderstandings and “myths” about the region. This is certainly true of education. It is time to address and dispel them. Myth 1 - Education is poor in the region because it has been neglected: Untrue. Since their independence, Arab world countries have made huge gains and currently invest heavily in education. The Arab world has made significant progress in recent decades.