The Arab World's Education Report Card: School Climate and Citizenship Skills

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Absent a good education environment, there is little room for the Arab world’s youth to turn into responsible citizens who can consolidate and stimulate social transformation to bring about more prosperous and free societies.
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The youth of the Arab world have driven much of the popular upheaval that has overtaken the region in the last year. Calling for fundamental political and economic change, they seek to remake their societies into more open, global players. But if that grassroots momentum is to be solidified, real societal reform must take place.

In burgeoning democracies such as Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, schools can be change agents and effective elements in the development of long-lasting democratic skills and values such as freedom, equality, social justice, and respect for diversity and basic human rights. With more than 40 percent of people in the Arab world under the age of eighteen, schools are key social and political actors that can strongly impact the process of democratization.

A growing body of research has shown that a positive school climate is imperative to ensuring progress on this front. The character and quality of school life, which reflects values, goals, organizational structure, interpersonal relationships, and teaching and learning practices, can either promote or hinder a student’s education and future success.

Unfortunately, in much of the Arab world school climates are generally negative. Indexes that combine data from three international studies and measure schools’ safety, teaching, learning, and institutional environments in fourteen Arab countries paint a picture that is far from rosy. Many students do not feel safe physically, socially, and emotionally in schools. Substantial percentages of teachers entered their profession with deficient academic preparation and pre-service training and do not receive adequate and appropriate professional development during service. Reliance on rote memorization of facts, student and teacher absenteeism, classroom overcrowding, and limited resources all contribute to the problem as well.

Much needs to be done. First and foremost, decisionmakers must find the political will to endorse serious comprehensive education reforms that target the entire school culture. All Arab countries should improve the status and qualifications of their teachers, and establish systems of good governance at both the local and central levels along with transparency and public accountability. Absent a good education environment, there is little room for the Arab world’s youth to turn into responsible citizens who can consolidate and stimulate social transformation to bring about more prosperous and free societies.

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In Fact



of Brazilian protesters

learned about a massive rally via Facebook or Twitter.


million cases pending

in India’s judicial system.

1 in 3


now needs urgent assistance.


political parties

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works in the private sector.


years ago

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of oil consumed in the United States

is for the transportation sector.


of Chechnya’s pre-1994 population

has fled to different parts of the world.


of oil consumed in China

was from foreign sources in 2012.


of Syria’s population

is expected to be displaced by the end of 2013.


million people killed

in Cold War conflicts.


of the U.S. economy

is consumed by healthcare.


billion in goods and services

traded between the United States and China in 2012.


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have been lost by Iran because of its nuclear program.


increase in China’s GDP per capita

between 1972 and today.


billion have been spent

to complete the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran.


of Iran’s electricity needs

is all the Bushehr nuclear reactor provides.


new airports

are set to be built in China by 2015.



were imprisoned in Turkey as of August 2012 according to the OSCE.


of the world's population

will reside in cities by 2050.


million Russian citizens

are considered “ethnic Muslims.”

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