Published on Arab Voices

Why are there low student-teacher ratios in Lebanon, and why does this matter for learning outcomes?

Why are there low student-teacher ratios in Lebanon, and why does this matter for learning outcomes?

The disruptions to public schooling in Lebanon in recent years have further highlighted the need for reforms to improve the utilization of resources within the public education sector. The Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE) has committed to these reforms with the recent launch in June 2023 of the Education Reform Roadmap 2025. The Roadmap encompasses three clusters of reforms: core teaching and learning and inclusion reforms, governance/operational reforms, and core efficiency/cost-saving reforms.

Under the core efficiency/cost-saving cluster of the Roadmap, MEHE and the World Bank collaborated on an analysis of teacher utilization in the first shift of the public education sector, based on data available in MEHE’s School Information Management System (SIMS) for the 2022-23 academic year. This analysis revealed that the student-teacher ratio (STR) in Lebanon is lower than OECD averages, particularly at secondary level. The national STR is 13 to 1 in primary and 6 to 1 in secondary, compared with the OECD average of 15:1 in primary and 13:1 in secondary.

Lebanon has historically had low student-teacher ratios (STRs). While a lower STR (indicating fewer students per teacher) is typically perceived as more beneficial for learning outcomes, evidence linking lower STRs and student performance is mixed. Furthermore, the STR has a significant impact on education sector budgets through teacher salary costs. Therefore, any potential benefit of policies leading to a lower STR and its associated cost needs to be weighed against the benefits of other investments in the education sector. In Lebanon, low STRs have not translated into adequate student learning outcomes.

Low STRs appear to be driven by four key factors:

  1. While regulations specify the number of teaching hours per week (“nisab”), it has been observed that civil servant teachers often use their nisab for non-teaching tasks. This drives high teacher demand as more teachers need to be hired to deliver the required teaching hours than if civil servant teachers were to teach their full nisab.
  2. There is a significant number of non-civil servant teachers with a low number of contracted teaching hours per week. This is especially the case at the secondary level, where 50% of non-civil-servant teachers are contracted to teach 7 hours a week or less.
  3. Class sizes are also below OECD averages. However, the low-class size average is driven by the high prevalence of small schools rather than a lack of enforcement of existing policies around class size.
  4. The provision of two language streams (English and French), teacher specialization requirements, and specialized student tracks at the secondary level further contribute to a high teacher demand.



With the current public-school network, current curriculum, and teacher specializations, there appears to be scope for right-sizing the teacher workforce – meaning, adapting it to the needs, resources, and objectives of the education system.

Our report recommends these policy actions:

  1. Increasing the productivity of existing and incoming teachers by enforcing nisab and specifying working hours for civil servant teachers, and increasing the average number of contracted hours per non-civil servant teacher;
  2. Implementing improved planning and deployment processes, so that existing teachers in the system are used to their full capacity before additional teachers are hired; and
  3. Implementing objective hiring controls, so that not all teachers who leave the profession are replaced and any new teachers who are hired respond to gaps within the sector, whether within a given region, cycle, or subject area.

These policy actions would allow MEHE to capitalize on the ongoing natural attrition of teachers (due to retirement and teachers leaving the profession), thus right-sizing the public education sector workforce without having to retrench existing teachers.

If the recommendations above are implemented, based on available SIMS data, it is estimated that MEHE will save up to US$29 million annually, based on 2023 compensation rates. This is equivalent to almost a tenth of MEHE’s total budget in 2023, including the US$150 million treasury advance. In addition, our analysis highlighted the need for optimizing the number of schools in the public school system which could offer even larger savings for the sector (see, for example, the school network optimization in Thailand).

The World Bank

While these cost savings are important, particularly within the context of the macroeconomic crisis facing the country, the savings are not an end. Rather, right-sizing the education workforce would enable MEHE to free up resources to invest into the quality of education service delivery, and to target available resources towards a smaller number of more productive staff.

By implementing our report’s recommended policy actions, Lebanon has the opportunity to create a more sustainable and effective education system for the benefit of its students and teachers, protecting the country’s human capital and contributing to the recovery of the Lebanese economy.

Adelle Pushparatnam

Senior Education Specialist

Hana El-Ghali

Senior Education Specialist

Fatine Guedira

Education Global Practice

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