Arab countries must provide the right skills for their large youth population if the Arab Spring is to have lasting effects, according to the 2010/2011 Arab Knowledge Report, a collaboration between the United Nations Development Programme and the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation, which was launched in Dubai last week.
The crucial role of skills in ensuring that young people can get decent jobs and better lives will be the theme of the 2012 EFA Global Monitoring Report, which we are currently preparing. This issue is particularly pressing in Arab countries, where 66% of the population is under the age of 25, according to the Arab Knowledge Report.
Their large youth population offers Arab countries a huge opportunity to develop and move towards more knowledge-based economies. However, as the Arab Knowledge Report argues, if the countries fail to provide these young people with the right skills to facilitate such development, the region will face great economic problems – including high levels of unemployment. As we wrote on this blog a year ago, education failures were deeply implicated in the Arab world’s political crisis.
Arab countries are still lagging behind in providing education and skills. The illiteracy rate of the Arab population aged 15 years and more was 29% in 2007, compared with 16% globally. Furthermore, there are large disparities in enrolment in secondary school between countries in the region: While both Qatar and Bahrain have 93% enrolment in secondary school, the figure is only 17% for Mauritania.
The Arab Knowledge Report argues that Arab countries need education reforms that better enable young people to acquire basic skills like literacy and numeracy, as well as more job-specific skills. Indeed, they “will have no alternative but to tackle this issue”, Amat Al Alim Alsoswa, assistant secretary-general at the UN Development Programme, told IRIN News.
Many young people around the world are leaving school without the skills they need to thrive in society and find decent work. The 2012 Education for All Global Monitoring Report will examine how skills development programmes can help young people find decent jobs and better lives.