The need to prepare Arab citizens to become contributing members of open and pluralistic systems is increasingly urgent. And that preparation begins with education. But studies commissioned by the Carnegie Middle East Center on citizenship education programs in eleven key Arab nations reveal that a wide gap exists between the stated goals of national education programs and their actual implementation. 

General Themes

  • Many factors shape the skills and values necessary to build and sustain democratic societies, including formal classroom instruction, extracurricular activities, and school climate. 
  • The Arab nations studied have nominally set goals for education reform and citizenship education and are making efforts to introduce concepts such as democracy and human rights into civic textbooks and curricula. 
  • In most nations, plans for education reform are divorced from political realities and do not include political commitments to educate free, democratic, and creative citizens.

National Plans in Practice

  • Overall, Arab nations have taken very few steps to make these goals a reality and to prepare young people for the transitions ahead. 
  • Civic principles, such as human rights, which are included in citizenship education, are frequently contradicted by other classes. 
  • Learning methods and practices are failing to encourage the skills and engagement needed for modern citizenship. Citizenship education is largely limited to rote instruction. Lessons tend to be didactic and teacher directed, and they promote official political and religious views.
  • Teachers, the key factors in the learning process, often lack the requisite training, support, and social status necessary to tackle the significant task of educating youth for citizenship.
  • The absence of opportunities to put lessons into practice and extracurricular activities inside and outside schools deprives students of actual citizenship experiences, thus hindering the development of their citizenship skills and dispositions. 
  • In most Arab nations, the school climate is generally authoritarian and repressive, which is not conducive to the development of civic competency. 

Studying Education in the Arab World  

Muhammad Faour
Faour was a senior associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center, where his research focused on education reform in Arab countries with an emphasis on citizenship education.
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As countries in the Arab world embark on the long road toward political transition and attempt to build more open and pluralistic political systems, the need to prepare citizens to become contributors to democratic societies has become increasingly urgent. 

This education for citizenship has three main components: knowledge of civic concepts, systems, and processes of civic life, including education for human rights and democracy; skills of civic participation; and students’ general disposition, including a sense of belonging to the state and shared values and ethics. The knowledge, skills, and values that build and sustain a democratic society are shaped by many factors, including formal classroom instruction, extracurricular activities, and school climate. Civic education, which covers the knowledge component of education for citizenship, is common in public schools in the Arab world. 

A review of citizenship education programs in public schools from kindergarten through twelfth grade in eleven key Arab nations reveals a wide gap between the stated goals of national education programs and their implementation.

Recent studies commissioned by the Carnegie Middle East Center show that whereas Arab countries have paid lip service to the goals of education reform and education for citizenship, they have taken very few steps to make these goals a reality and to prepare young people for a political and economic order that is rapidly shifting.1 A review of citizenship education programs in public schools from kindergarten through twelfth grade in eleven key Arab nations reveals a wide gap between stated goals of national education programs and their implementation. 

Context for Citizenship Education

Despite the potential for meaningful transitions to democracy in some Arab countries, the general political context for education in the Arab world remains one of considerable authoritarianism. This authoritarianism is longstanding and is reflected in the structures of educational administrations and institutions in almost all Arab countries. Despite considerable ethnic and religious diversity in several Arab countries, the educational systems are rarely pluralistic and inclusive in their approach. 

Of the political regimes in the eleven Arab nations studied, none can be described as a “full democracy.” Five regimes can be deemed “partially or somewhat democratic” systems, including Lebanon, Iraq, the Palestinian Authority, and recently Tunisia and Egypt. When it comes to whether the citizenry enjoys basic political rights and civil liberties, only a few countries are considered “partly free”: Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, and increasingly Egypt.2

Authoritarian political systems create authoritarian educational systems that lack accountability and transparency, and they nurture a school climate of blind obedience to authority figures.

Political and socioeconomic characteristics impinge on educational systems in general and on education for citizenship in particular. Authoritarian political systems create authoritarian educational systems that lack accountability and transparency, and they nurture a school climate of blind obedience to authority figures, be they teachers, principals, or political leaders. Schools run by authoritarian principals do not welcome freedom of expression, respect for diversity of opinions, creativity, and innovation. Nor do they allow students to participate in decisionmaking at the school and community level or to organize extracurricular activities or student groups without the consent of the administration and oftentimes the state security agency as well.3  

Education for citizenship is also influenced by its institutional context, such as the amount of the government’s budget that is allocated to education, the school enrollment rate, and the school climate. Almost all the Arab nations in the study (except Lebanon) spend considerable percentages of their gross domestic products (GDP) on their education sectors (see table 1). In fact, the expenditures of many Arab governments on education as a percentage of GDP are equal to or higher than those of the governments of Finland, Canada, and Singapore, whose education systems are performing very well, judging by the high achievement of their students on international tests. Indeed, this percentage in five Arab countries—Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—is twice that of the comparable percentages in Finland, Canada, and Singapore. 

The net enrollment rate for primary education is also high by international standards, except for Iraq, the Palestinian Authority, and Jordan. In terms of secondary education, the net enrollment rates in these eleven Arab nations are higher than the world average, except for those of Iraq and Morocco. 

The generous expenditures on education and the above-average rates of enrollment at schools indicate that the education systems studied are in some ways performing well. Yet, other measures of performance tell a different story. The student achievement scores on international tests in reading, mathematics, and the sciences are below average for all eleven Arab nations. This demonstrates that government spending and school enrollment rates are not sufficient indicators of education quality. Other equally important measures of education quality need to be taken into account, such as governance, quality of teachers, school climate, and the status of key student competencies.

Good governance and management at both the central government level and the local school level are necessary for quality citizenship education.

Good governance and management at both the central government level and the local school level are necessary for quality citizenship education. In most of the Arab countries studied, ministries of education assume a highly centralized role and continue to be dominated by authoritarian management systems. The ministries control most aspects of public schools’ operations—budget, curricula, staff recruitment and promotion, and schools’ rules and regulations. Furthermore, most ministries of education lack efficient supervisory units, competent human resources, and a strong political commitment to undertake comprehensive reform.4  

Instruction in all subjects in public schools, including civics, remains didactic and directed by the teacher, with limited opportunities for students to engage in open discussion or express their opinions without fear of intimidation by teachers. Active learning is rare, and students are not encouraged to think analytically or critically. Students memorize facts and information presented to them in textbooks and regurgitate it in exams without directly applying that information to or integrating it into relevant and meaningful experiences. 

The school climate, represented by an index that measures school safety, teaching and learning, and institutional environments in relation to the international average in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS 2007), paints a grim picture. Many students do not feel safe physically, socially, and emotionally in schools. Substantial percentages of teachers enter their profession with insufficient academic preparation and pre-service training and do not receive adequate and appropriate professional development during their service. Student and teacher absenteeism, classroom overcrowding, and limited resources all contribute to the problem of negative school climate as well.5 

Taken together, these contextual factors paint a generally negative picture. Although the Arab governments studied are allocating significant resources for education, the educational systems remain plagued by grave problems that hinder the development of citizens who are adequately prepared for social and political life. 

Diverse Priorities in Education Objectives

Most of the eleven nations examined have undertaken educational reviews over the past decade, promulgated new education laws and strategic plans, and included citizenship education within their new platforms. Most countries claim that they aim to produce graduates who are creative, independent thinkers and lifelong learners who are competent in languages, mathematics, science, and information and communication technology. Their education reform initiatives aim to raise responsible citizens who can contribute to society thanks to the appropriate academic and social skills and competencies they are expected to learn. 

However, the goals and objectives laid out in these national programs are mixed up with religious and nationalist values. Moreover, the goals are rarely matched with realistic work plans or adequate commitment and resources to translate the platforms into reality.

For example, the general goals for education in Jordan include preparing “a citizen who believes in God Almighty; clings to his faith, as represented by the high Islamic and Arab values; belongs to his homeland, principles, and nation.”12  Egypt’s curriculum framework for all school levels (elementary, middle, and secondary) also indicates religious values as a primary objective. As the framework states, a goal of the education system is to “deepen the belief of learners in their faith, its principles, values, and its perspective on man, universe, and life; and the alignment of their behavior with that perspective in words and deeds.”13 

In the UAE and Lebanon, national identity is stressed. The UAE’s strategic education plan for 2010–2020 lists ten goals, one of which is the “promotion of national identity and development of citizenship spirit among students.”14 Lebanon’s latest strategic plan includes “education on citizenship” that aims to “promote student’s national identity and civic responsibility.”15 

Tunisia and the Palestinian Authority, meanwhile, mention citizens’ multiple identities. The education reform act in Tunisia in 2002 targeted “learner’s self-confidence reflecting her/his cultural, civilizational belonging in its Arab, Islamic, and universal humanitarian dimensions.”16 Similarly, the education sector’s vision for 2011–2013 in the Palestinian Authority aims to “prepare a Palestinian human being who shows pride in his homeland, identity and Arab and Islamic culture.”17 

Overall, the eleven Arab nations have diverse priorities in citizenship education. One group seeks to raise religious citizens as its highest priority; another, patriotic nationalists; and a third group desires to graduate youth with two or more identities—ethnic, religious, national, regional, and international.

Approaches to Citizenship Education

Arab nations have different approaches to educating students for citizenship in terms of the ways in which content is organized and time is allocated and the pedagogical models that are used.18 An examination of the formal curricula in the eleven nations studied shows that the approaches generally fall into one of two categories. First, curricula can include a separate, compulsory subject or course on civics. Second, civics topics can be integrated into other subjects, mainly social studies, which means that some chapters in non-civics courses are dedicated to civic themes. These two approaches are not mutually exclusive. Iraq and Jordan only have separate civics courses while Morocco only has an integrated approach. The remaining eight countries have both a separate course and an integrated provision. Furthermore, most nations use civic concepts and values in their courses on Arabic language, Arabic literature, and religious education.19 

In terms of the time allocated for instruction, the majority of the eleven Arab nations set aside a specific course for civics that is offered for one period per week. Jordan allocates one period per week for grades four through ten and three periods for grades eleven and twelve, whereas Oman allocates two periods for grades eleven and twelve and none for the lower grades. The duration of the period varies from 40 minutes in Oman, Iraq, and the UAE to 45 minutes in Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority. Bahrain allocates 50 minutes to the subject while up to 60 minutes is spent on civics in the Maghreb countries Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia.

Arab nations do not start teaching a civics course in the same grade. Five nations (Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, and the UAE) start teaching it in first grade; Bahrain in second; Iraq, Morocco, and Tunisia in fifth; and Egypt and Oman in eleventh. Most nations discontinue teaching civics after grade ten, perhaps to allow students more time to focus on the subjects that determine their success or failure in the government exams. Students in Lebanon and Oman are tested for and receive grades in civics as part of government exams in grade twelve, but the civics grade amounts to a small percentage of the total score. In Egypt, new curricular reforms require students to be tested in the civics course, but they are given only a pass/fail grade. 

Whether offered as a specific course or integrated into social studies, the instructional time dedicated to the civics topics in grades one through twelve as compared with the other subjects is quite limited. The short instructional time dedicated to civics and the little weight it is given in the total test scores of the student means that it is a subject of low importance to both students and teachers. In most Arab nations, more study time is allocated to Islamic education than civic education.

The majority of the nations studied use the term “national” in their civics courses to emphasize the concepts of patriotism and loyalty to the political regime. But the nations that use the term “civic” in the title of the civics courses also stress the patriotic aspect of citizenship. 

Two common titles of the civics courses are attarbiya al-madaniya (civic education) and attarbiya al-wataniya (national education), with some nations combining the two into one title. Algeria, the Palestinian Authority, and Tunisia use the title civic education, while Egypt and the UAE use the title national education. Jordan combines the two into the title attarbiya al-wataniya wa al-madaniya (national and civic education). Lebanon modifies that title to become attarbiya al-wataniya wa attanshia al-madaniya (national education and civic upbringing), and Iraq combines social and national education with attarbiya al-ijtimaiya wa al-wataniya. Other titles include attarbiya min ajl al-muwatana (education for citizenship) in Bahrain and hadha watani (this is my homeland) in Oman. 

Textbooks, Citizenship, and Key Civic Concepts

Contents of the textbooks that deal with civic topics in the eleven Arab nations can be generally categorized into four main areas. First is civic society and systems, which includes democratic systems. The second is civic principles, such as equality, social cohesion, and human rights. Third are civic identities, notably national, regional, and religious identities. And fourth is civic participation, which covers decisionmaking, influencing policy, and community participation.20 

Democracy and Citizenship 

School textbooks in the eleven Arab nations include favorable descriptions of democracy as a concept, yet they differ in their positions toward democracy as a political system. Seven of them (Algeria, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, and Tunisia) endorse the democratic political system without reservation in their textbooks. Textbooks in Oman and the UAE subscribe to the Islamic notion of shura, or rulers’ consultation with selected people, as their political model. The concept of shura is drawn from two Quranic verses. The first is a directive by God to the Prophet Muhammad: “And consult them in [important] matters.”21 The second verse is a description of an attribute of the believers: “And whose affairs are [decided] by counsel among themselves.”22 The remaining Arab nations—Bahrain and Egypt—include references to both the Western model of democracy and the Islamic shura model.

Meanwhile, some nations that follow the shura model apply democratic principles in some settings, such as in schools, professional associations, and civil society organizations. In those nations, many schools have student councils that are elected by the students and parents’/guardians’ associations as well as nongovernmental organizations that are headed by elected members. 

Notwithstanding references to democracy, contents of the textbooks are disconnected from political and social realities and ignore the gap between democratic principles and practices mentioned in school curricula. They also do not address the authoritarian nature of political regimes and the prevalence of serious deviations from democracy, such as sectarianism, corruption, and the absence of transparency and public accountability.

Of the nations that emphasize democracy in their texts, Lebanon’s books are most elaborate on the features of democracies and include details of the Lebanese case. Unlike in the case of other Arab nations, political rights and duties of citizens are highlighted. Tunisian school books also make strong statements in support of democracy. For example, one textbook calls for the “promotion of democracy as an international choice for the new millennium.”23 It adds that “there is a necessary link between democracy and pluralism,” and the concept of pluralism encompasses more than diversity of political perspectives. It has “ethnic, religious, linguistic and cultural dimensions.”24 These books were written under the auspices of the deposed authoritarian regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, demonstrating a clear disconnect given the undemocratic political realities that characterized his rule.

In Algeria, authoritarianism prevails, yet one major stated goal of the education system is “to assert the principle of democracy,”25 and “the main objective of civic education is learning democratic functioning in social life.”26 According to the Directive Law on National Education, the practice of democracy includes “full participation in the country’s public life.”27  

The Moroccan education system at primary schools desires to achieve “education on citizenship and the practice of democracy and supports the principles of gender equality.”28 However, the content of textbooks shows no relevance to the social and political situation in which the king presides with almost absolute power even in the presence of an elected, bicameral parliament.

Iraq’s school textbooks fully endorse the concept and practice of democracy. Three-quarters of the textbook for the national and social education course for the third intermediate class (ninth grade) is made up of a discussion of the new Iraqi constitution and the functions of the various executive, legislative, and judicial agencies of the state. A full chapter is spent on civil society and its organizations. In the seventh grade, 75 percent of the content of the textbook on national and social education is about democracy-related topics. The first chapter focuses on the different political systems with an emphasis on the democratic system. The third chapter is about freedom, democracy, and human rights, and the fourth and last chapter is on good citizenship. Additionally, scattered throughout the book are many Quranic verses and statements by the Prophet Muhammad to support the arguments presented. 

In Jordanian textbooks, democracy is presented as an ideal, long-term goal that the government is working toward: “Democracy is not a commodity that any state can buy with money. A state cannot become democratic overnight. It takes democracy long years and sacrifices to become a lifestyle that is adopted by individuals, institutions and governments.”29 The book, however, adds that the state is confronted by very serious challenges, such as poverty, unemployment, favoritism, corruption, and people’s disinterest in political parties,30 which implicitly make democracy too idealistic a goal to attain. 

Unlike the group of Arab nations that declare their support for democratic political systems in their school texts, Oman and the UAE emphasize in their textbooks the cultural identity of their nations and their Islamic Arab heritage. The concept of shura predominates in the discussion of the state structure with little reference to Western democracy. But whether or not these nations actually apply the Islamic shura model is debatable in light of the different interpretations of the shura system among Islamic scholars. 

Forming a middle ground, textbooks from Bahrain and Egypt emphasize both democracy and shura. These texts paint democracy in a favorable light yet make an effort to explain how it is compatible with Islamic shura. In Bahrain, the education for citizenship course for seventh grade describes the country’s political system as “democratic” and explains that the people are “the source of all authorities.”31 Despite numerous discriminatory practices in Bahrain, according to Article 18 of the constitution, people are “equal in human dignity and before the law in rights and public duties; no discrimination by gender, ethnic origin, language, religion or belief.”32 The constitution qualifies this emphasis on pluralism and equality by stating that political leadership is represented by the king, crown prince, and prime minister, all belonging to the royal family. And the “king presides over the state, his self is untouchable. And he is the honest protector of the religion and the nation; safeguards the legitimacy of the authority (political) and the sovereignty of the constitution and the law; and is attentive to the rights of individuals and groups and their freedoms.”33 Further elaboration on the selection of political leadership appears in the textbook Islam and Contemporary Issues used in the tenth through twelfth grades. In that book, political freedom encompasses the right to choose the Muslim leader through consultation by a group of experts (ahl al-hall walaqd) followed by expressions of allegiance by the people (bayaa), as was practiced in the Islamic states after the death of the Prophet Muhammad.34 

In Egypt today, the teaching of democracy is approached from an Islamic perspective. The revised textbook on national education for the third secondary class (twelfth grade) after the January 2011 revolution includes large sections that promote Islamic viewpoints, particularly those of the Muslim Brotherhood. In the chapter on democracy, a section titled “democracy in Islamic thought—shura” discusses the concept of shura in detail, supported by verses from the Quran and statements by the Prophet Muhammad. It is presented as a sacred, God-given concept, and Islam is described as having “established the foundations of democracy and human rights even if it [that is, Islam] did not use these terms” some fourteen centuries ago, and “the preferred term then was shura, which is broader than democracy.”35 According to the textbook, shura represents a form of government as well as a value system that encompasses features of a pluralistic society. This approach is likely meant to teach students that shura is the best form of democracy that suits Egypt and all other Muslim-majority nations.

Approaches to Human Rights 

A key civic principle that is at least nominally adopted by all United Nations member states is that of human rights. According to its charter, the United Nations aims “to achieve international co-operation in solving international problems . . . and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for the fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.”36 This principle was codified in declarations, covenants, and treaties, notably the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. 

While the textbooks of all eleven Arab nations studied do not necessarily reflect the reality of human rights conditions in the region, each country’s curriculum makes an effort to include references to human rights in different ways. Six nations (Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, and Tunisia) promote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights explicitly in their textbooks, while two (Oman and the UAE) endorse only the human rights cited in their national laws, which are based on sharia. The remaining three nations (Bahrain, Egypt, and Jordan) put their support for human rights in the context of the limits of sharia, claiming a cultural specificity that deviates from the international consensus on some issues. 

Although the school textbooks in all eleven cases studied endorse a number of human rights even when not endorsing all the rights listed in the Universal Declaration, there are documented incidents of serious violations of these rights in political and social life. What students read in their textbooks about human rights is disconnected from what is implemented in their communities.

What students read in their textbooks about human rights is disconnected from what is implemented in their communities.
Two Ends of the Spectrum  

Despite the persistence of authoritarian repression in Algeria, the Algerian Directive Law on National Education of 2008 clearly supports the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. According to this law, the school “must promote knowledge and respect for human rights and rights of the woman and the child.”37 Similarly, a major stated goal of education in Algeria is to establish the foundations of a society that “secures the fostering of the relevant positive values and attitudes, particularly the principles of human rights, equality, and social justice.”38 

Iraq’s school textbooks also nominally endorse the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with explanations for some of its articles, along with discussions of international treaties and covenants on the rights of the woman and the child.39 For example, in the eleventh-grade textbook, there is a chapter on human rights in Islam, quite similar in content and presentation to comparable books in Egypt and Bahrain. And when it comes to freedom of belief, the Iraqi book supports that right, yet with implicit reservations. It notes the Quranic verse that Islam is the only true religion but that Muslims never fought “people of the book [Jews and Christians] except after they displayed their disloyalty and treachery.”40 

Similarly, while the state of human rights in Lebanon does not necessarily conform to international standards, the country’s civics textbooks provide an elaborate discussion of universal human rights, including the rights of women, children, the handicapped, and teachers as well as the role of international organizations and the Arab League in defense of human rights. And political rights and duties are presented, particularly the duty to vote. The constitution of Lebanon adopts the rights cited in the Universal Declaration.41 

Also superficially adhering to international accords, Morocco’s “national charter for education” presents the domain of values in primary education, which includes “the pillar” of the “values of human rights and its global principles.”42 And the education system at primary schools aims at the “consolidation of the human values such as freedom, tolerance, equality, personal integrity, justice, and mastering the spirit of dialogue and acceptance of difference.”43 

The topic of human rights in Moroccan primary schools is integrated into a number of subjects, notably social studies, Arabic language, and Islamic education. Within social studies, education on citizenship aims to “consolidate citizenship values, human rights and respect of differences among the learners.”44 In Arabic language, the content of the curriculum stresses the importance of “applying human rights, citizenship and civic behavior in the life of the individual and society in the family, school and on the street” and provides relevant models of citizenship values and civic behavior.45 In Islamic education, one of the objectives is “education on citizenship values and rights and duties.” Another objective is “nurturing the virtues of coexistence, solidarity, tolerance, openness and respect for the other.”46 

In the same vein, despite the troubling human rights situation in the Palestinian Authority’s territory, according to the Palestinian strategic plan in education for 2011–2013, one of the strategic pillars of education is to “raise awareness on human rights and gender equality.”47 This goal is affirmed in a textbook on reading: “The state of Palestine announces its commitment to the principles and goals of the UN, to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”48 And in the Islamic education textbooks, verses from the Quran are presented to support the Palestinian Authority’s commitment to equality: “O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women.” Another verse presented in the textbooks states: “Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you.”49 

Palestinian Authority textbooks on Islamic education also emphasize freedom of belief: “The message of Islam is based on liberating people from all types of oppression which dictatorial tyrants practice, to guarantee for them freedom of belief and worship, and to move them from worshipping worshippers to worshipping the Lord of the worshippers.”50 

The Tunisian constitution, although adopted under an oppressive authoritarian regime, asserts the global dimension of human rights: “The Tunisian Republic safeguards the basic rights and human rights in their universality, comprehensiveness, and connectivity.”51 It adds that human rights are universal because the human being, which is universal, is the foundation. And although diversity and differences among people exist, those varied characteristics should enrich human rights and support the dialogue among civilizations. Furthermore, “favoring particularism over universalism will lead to violation of some rights and harm the weak (unprivileged) groups.”52 One textbook explains that human rights have priority over development because “postponing concern about human rights until economic development is achieved leads to violation of human rights and not to sustainable development.”53 

Though the state of women’s rights leaves much to be desired, Tunisia’s constitution is unique among all Arab nations in recognizing the rights of women according to international declarations. The state has justified its position since the early days of independence using a religious ruling that gender equity is compatible with Islamic sharia. For example, the law of personal status forbids the husband to have more than one wife. It also states that marriage requires the consent of both spouses without the approval of the woman’s guardian if she is an adult and that divorce takes place only in court and can be initiated by either or both parties.54

By contrast, in Oman and the UAE, the civics textbooks do not discuss the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Instead, they present the rights and responsibilities of citizens as cited in the constitution or statute of the state, such as citizen’s rights; family rights; brotherhood rights in Islam; and rights to housing, education, health, security, work, and respect for other people’s ideas. 

The Middle Ground

The final group of nations—Bahrain, Egypt, and Jordan—present in their school textbooks a middle ground position between the group that explicitly adopts the Universal Declaration and the group that advocates the Islamic perspective on human rights. 

Completely divorced from the troubling human rights situation in Bahrain, the Bahraini constitution and civics textbook devote a great deal of attention to the importance of protecting human rights in an international, national, and Islamic framework. In Bahrain, the textbook Education for Citizenship for seventh grade discusses the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and presents its articles in a simplified style. It also displays excerpts from the Bahraini constitution to show the state’s endorsement of the declaration. For example, Article 4 of the constitution states that “justice is the basis of governance, cooperation, forbearance, freedom, equality, social solidarity, equality of opportunity.”55 And Article 18 states that “People are equal in human dignity and before the law in rights and public duties . . . no discrimination by gender, ethnic origin, language, religion or faith.”56 Furthermore, a statement that rejects discrimination against women was added to the Bahraini national law in 2002 and became part of the family law in 2009.57 Rights of children are part of the law and discussed in the same textbook. 

The state’s policy on human rights is based on both the international covenants and Islamic sharia, with more emphasis on the latter as evidenced by the textbooks on Islamic education. Bahrain perceives its stance on these matters as a reconciliation of the universality of human rights with the particularities of the Muslim Arab culture.58  

Human rights in Bahrain are part of its “commitment to the principles of the Islamic sharia and to the international treaties and covenants” and part of “comprehensive development,”59 which the king described in a speech to the Gulf Cooperation Council summit in 2004 as “among the most important human rights.”60 The Bahraini textbook Islam and Contemporary Issues expresses strong support for the Islamic perspective on human rights. According to that book, Islam established human rights before people demanded them in an uprising or revolution, and the sacrifices that Muslims made over time were aimed at institutionalizing human rights for other people and saving them from oppression and persecution.61 Another textbook states that Islam set up “an integral system of human rights by being the oldest mandatory source and the earliest to appear and the most comprehensive . . . based on the rights of freedom, justice and equality.”62 

According to the Bahraini textbook Islam and Contemporary Issues, human rights in Islam include rights to life (against murder and suicide), equality, and freedom (from slavery) as well as of belief (Christians have the right to practice their rituals and build churches), but apostasy is forbidden. A Muslim who changes religion “should be killed,” but only after being given a three-day warning to repent, the textbook says.63 These rights also include the right to education, ownership, and freedom of opinion, thought, and expression. Political freedom refers to the rights of Muslim citizens to choose the Muslim ruler through shura, whereby a group of experts (ahl al-hall walaqd) will nominate a candidate, then the people will approve him through a show of allegiance (bayaa). And Muslim people have the right to express their opinions to the ruler, advise him, complain, and dissent if his orders are not aligned with God’s orders (that is, not aligned with sharia).64 

While human rights protections in Egypt remain lacking in this transitional period, Egyptian textbooks also devote a great deal of attention to human rights and share many of the arguments of the Bahraini textbooks. For example, the chapter on human rights in the national education textbook for twelfth grade dedicates a section in “divine religions” (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) to human rights and elaborates on the Islamic perspective. The list of human rights in Islam is longer than the list in the Bahraini textbooks. Added to the Egyptian text are the rights to asylum, safety and security, work, health, and social welfare.65 After presenting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the text argues that states are not legally bound to uphold the declaration and that other international, regional, and national covenants on human rights have more legal weight. The text defends the cultural and political specificity of states and cites those characteristics as justification for a state’s decision not to strictly implement all the articles of the Universal Declaration. The Arab Charter on Human Rights of 2005 is highlighted as a document that satisfies the principles of Islam and of the other major religions and that affirms the belief in the unity of the Arab homeland. 

After citing what the book describes as selective implementation of some human rights by the world’s major powers as a pretext for intervention in the affairs of small states along with the violations of human rights by the United States and Israel in Palestine and by the United States in Iraq, the textbook explains that the Arab and Islamic states “must study” these treaties, covenants, and charters “very thoroughly” and “compare them with the principles of Islamic sharia” before signing them or expressing reservation about their contents.66 In other words, sharia, as interpreted by the Egyptian regime, determines which human rights are applied and which are not. And since interpretations of sharia vary among Islamic scholars, the application of human rights may vary from one government to another. 

Since interpretations of sharia vary among Islamic scholars, the application of human rights may vary from one government to another.

Freedom of belief is respected in Islam, according to the Egyptian Islamic education textbooks, but this does not apply to those who choose to leave the Islamic faith. Apostasy among Muslims is not tolerated. One recent illustration of the sensitivity of this issue is the Islamists’ outrage over a statement in the national education textbook that asks students to respect those who change their religions. The minister of education referred the matter to al-Azhar, the country’s premier Sunni religious institution, for expert advice. Al-Azhar recommended deletion of the statement.67 The Islamists wanted instead to include a statement allegedly by the Prophet Muhammad that refers to the death penalty for apostates that is also included in the Bahraini textbooks. 

Egyptian textbooks highlight women’s rights in Islam. In Citizenship and Human Rights for the second secondary class (eleventh grade), a chapter is dedicated to women’s rights in Islam, which include rights to inheritance, trade, and ownership of money and property as well as the right to education “so long as it is not at odds with her religion.”68 This wording gives ample room for variations in interpretation among religious scholars. The textbook adds that Islam established for the woman the foundations and laws that “guarantee her equality and rights and safeguard her dignity and prevent her exploitation physically or mentally, and left her the freedom in various aspects of life.”69 But the text does not mention Islam’s position on gender inequality in inheritance or marriage and divorce, for instance. This selective endorsement of universal human rights relieves the new political regime in Egypt of the need to offer their full approval of gender equality and the right of people to change their religions. 

In Jordan, human rights are also presented within the context of both international declarations and Islamic sharia. For example, the sixth-grade textbook for the subject “civic and national education” contains a unit dedicated to the topics of democracy and human rights. Those rights encompass the Universal Declaration, the rights of women and children, and the rights and duties addressed in the Jordanian constitution. The unit neglects the citizen’s right to political participation and the universality of human rights. Instead, the book contends that the human rights mentioned in the constitution have two sources: Islamic sharia and international treaties and covenants,70 which is the same conviction presented in the Bahraini textbooks. Furthermore, the discussion of the rights emphasizes an Islamic approach and examples. 

The Disconnect With Reality  

Despite these statements, the contents of the textbooks do not reflect accurately the legal positions of several Arab nations as evidenced by their support for two other documents on human rights: the 2005 Arab Charter on Human Rights (which went into effect in March 2008) and the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam from 1990.71 These documents deviate from the Universal Declaration and have been adopted by all Arab nations, except Lebanon and Tunisia. 

Since all Arab nations, except for Lebanon and Tunisia, consider Islam to be a reference source of legislation, they do not endorse laws or declarations that contradict any of the rules or concepts that are explicitly stated in the sharia. Accordingly, they disapprove of parts of two articles (16 and 18) in the Universal Declaration. In Article 16, “men and women of full age . . . are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.” In the Cairo Declaration, an alternative article, 5(a), was presented with the word “equal” deleted from Article 16 of the Universal Declaration. Article 5(a) states that “men and women have the right to marriage.” According to the Cairo Declaration, gender equality in Islam is displayed in certain aspects of life such as human dignity, financial independence, and the right to retain maiden names, but “the husband is responsible for the maintenance and welfare of the family.” As to the Arab Charter, it left the issue of gender rights in marriage to national law, which gives wide powers to religious courts on issues related to marriage, divorce, and inheritance.

Most Arab nations have also disapproved of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which describes “the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” This right includes freedom to change one’s religion or beliefs and to display that in “teaching, practice, worship and observance.” Instead, the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam affirms that Islam prohibits “any form of pressure on man . . . in order to force him to change his religion to another religion or to atheism.” But the Cairo Declaration does not take a stand in the case of a Muslim who changes his religion freely and without coercion. In the Arab Charter, the right to freedom of thought and religion is included but with the qualifying phrase “except as provided for by law,” thus refraining from unequivocal support for Article 18 of the Universal Declaration. 

Citizenship Identity 

National identity, defined as patriotism and loving one’s country and favoring it over all others, is a recurrent theme in the civics textbooks in the eleven Arab nations. Citizenship is often defined in terms of belonging to a nation and being loyal to it and to its leaders. In most cases, Arab and Islamic identities are also underscored. The eleven nations in this study each emphasize a combination of national, Arab, Islamic, or multicultural dimensions of citizenship identity in their school textbooks. 

The national dimension of a citizen’s identity is particularly prominent in the curricula and textbooks of schools in Bahrain, Lebanon, Oman, the Palestinian Authority, and the UAE. In Bahrain, the course “education for citizenship” aims to “make the learner aware of her/his national identity” and to develop the student’s sense of national duty by “deepening the concepts of citizenship, planting the spirit of loyalty and belonging among students, and specifying their duties toward their nation and leadership.” It also sets the goal of bolstering the sense of pride in the achievements of the king.72 This objective of the civics curriculum translates into an abundance of topics and references to national identity in the textbooks, such as the titles of chapters “Bahrain: My Homeland,” “My Country Bahrain and the Neighboring Countries,” “My Country: History and Civilization,” “The National Heritage of My Country,” and “I Love and Guard My Country.”73 

One of the goals of education in Oman, according to the Statute of the State, which forms the backbone of the country’s legal system and acts as a constitution, is to raise a “strong generation” that is “proud of its nation, homeland, and heritage.”74 The current system of basic education attempts to achieve a number of objectives starting with “enhancing Islamic principles and the Omani cultural identity.”75 And one of the objectives of the course “this is my homeland” is to develop “loyalty to His Majesty . . . being the symbol of the nation and the embodiment of the people’s hopes and ambitions.”76 

In the UAE, the government declared 2008 “the year of the identity,” referring to national identity. This was followed in 2009 by the issuing of the “National Document for the United Arab Emirates for 2021,” which is composed of four components: “the self-confident, responsible Emirati”; “united in destiny”; “united in knowledge and innovation”; and “united in prosperity.”77 Top objectives of the national education subject in schools are “safeguarding the cultural identity of the Emirati society as an Arab-Muslim society” and the “expression of loyalty and belonging to the state.”78 

In Lebanon, the objectives of civic education for the primary school student include “promotion of the feeling of the Lebanese national identity . . . and promotion of the feeling and belonging to the Arab identity.”79 And for the Palestinian Authority, the first goal of its strategic plan in education is to “prepare a Palestinian human being who shows pride in his homeland, identity and Arab and Islamic culture.”80  

While Bahrain, Lebanon, Oman, the Palestinian Authority, and the UAE stress the national dimension of their citizens’ identity, Jordan highlights the Arab dimension without neglecting the national one. According to Article 1 of the Jordanian constitution, “the Jordanian people are part of the Arab nation.”81 

 According to Algeria’s Directive Law on National Education, the first major goal of the Algerian school is to “assert the Algerian character” by promoting “the values pertinent to Islam, Arabism and Amazighism” (Berber culture), as these are “the three founding principles of the Algerian nation.”82 Furthermore, “the school must contribute to the image of Algeria as the land of Islam.”83 The Islamic dimension is underscored in one of the goals of education, which is the “formation of a generation that masters the principles of Islam and its spiritual, moral, cultural, and civilizational values.”84 

Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia highlight the two dimensions of Arabism and Islam in their citizens’ identities. According to the new 2012 constitution of Egypt, “the Egyptian people are part of the Arab and Islamic nations.”85 Additionally, “Islam is the religion of the state and Arabic its official language.”86 However, the Islamic component carries more weight than the Arab component in the new editions of Egyptian textbooks in which Islamic concepts, Quranic verses, and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad abound. This is a reflection of the universal message of Islam in the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology.

A 2011 constitutional amendment in Morocco declares the state to be an Islamic state and explains that national identity has several components: “Arab-Islamic, Amazighi (Berber), and Hassani desert (of Western Sahara)” culture.87In the Moroccan curriculum of primary education, Islamic values are also prominent.88 For Tunisia, the “national charter” has a section titled “identity,” which states that “the identity of our people is Arab-Islamic.”89 

In Iraq, details of the social composition of the country are displayed in the first intermediate class (seventh-grade) textbook National and Social Education. Among Arab nations, Iraq is unique in revealing its “multiple nationalities, religions, and sects” in the constitution, but the third intermediate class (ninth grade) textbook explains that “Islam is the religion of the majority.”90   

Attributes of a Good Citizen  

Besides variations in the national identity of citizens, there is also a diversity of characteristics attributed to a “good citizen.” Common characteristics of a “good citizen” include respect for law, responsible actions, moral behavior, and patriotism and loyalty to the political regime and its leader. 

In one of his speeches, the king of Bahrain defined “the good citizen” as the person “who does a better job for the good of Bahrain and its security and stability.”91 In Islam and Contemporary Issues, a textbook for secondary schools, a “good citizen” has the following attributes: “love and loyalty to the homeland; striving to defend it against all opposing thoughts; continuous work for its glory and progress; mastering its history, culture, ambitions and hopes; loyalty to it at times of crisis as well as of prosperity; safeguarding its institutions and acting to develop them to their utmost level for the benefit of all citizens.”92 

Loyalty to the nation is often synonymous with loyalty to the ruler. For example, Bahraini children in fourth grade have to know their duties to the king in addition to memorizing his biography and achievements.93 In Jordan, “good citizens” are loyal to the crown, and “citizenship has two sides: one is loyalty and the other is belongingness.”94 

In Morocco, the king occupies both the highest civil and Islamic religious position as the “commander of the faithful” who demands full obedience from all his subjects. According to Article 19 of the amended constitution, “the king, Amir al-Muminin [commander of the faithful], shall be the supreme representative of the nation and the symbol of the unity thereof. He shall be the guarantor of the perpetuation and the continuity of the state. As Defender of the Faith, he shall ensure respect for the constitution. He shall be the protector of the rights and liberties of citizens, social groups and organizations.”95 

The definition of citizenship in the UAE emphasizes not only morals and patriotism but also citizens’ knowledge of their rights to free education and medical services. National identity in the UAE as well as Oman carries with it a number of obligations, notably allegiance to the state and love of one’s homeland. “Good citizens” in the UAE, Oman, and Bahrain should demonstrate loyalty to the political leadership or ruling family, maintain customs and traditions, express pride in their nation’s history and modern achievements, contribute to national campaigns sponsored by the government, and participate in national celebrations.96 A good Algerian citizen has a “feeling of belongingness to the Algerian people which is rooted in his soul” and is “attached to national unity” and to “the symbols of the nation.”97 

Egypt’s new textbooks highlight the religious qualities of a “good Egyptian citizen.” According to the national education textbook for the tenth grade, a good Egyptian citizen should possess seventeen attributes. The first two are the “belief in God and commitment to his religious instructions and respect for the religions of others” and the “full awareness of his [the citizen’s] civil and political rights and duties in society, so he would demand his rights and performs his duties.” Other commendable qualities of the good citizen include volunteering, voting, and political engagement; tolerance and moderation in thought and behavior and acceptance of others; respect for the constitution; and pride in the nation and its history and civilization. In addition, it is worth noting that the list of qualities includes the “promotion of good deeds or virtue and dissuasion of bad deeds or evil in one’s social neighborhood,”98 an action for which the infamous religious police (mutawi) in Saudi Arabia are known.  

According to Iraq’s National and Social Education textbook for the first intermediate class (seventh grade), “saving and rational spending are the most important form of good citizenship.”99 Iraq is unique among Arab nations in devoting one-fourth of this textbook to that topic. The discussion includes the role of savings for the family and the state, the role of banks in savings growth, and the role of the savings in economic development.

For the Lebanese sixth grader, citizenship is defined as “belonging to the homeland” and the “good citizen” “volunteers for public good; participates in public affairs (voting, expressing opinion on public issues); commits to the duties of citizenship; pays taxes, engages in military service and defense of the homeland; and abides by laws and regulations.”100 In Tunisia, a good citizen participates in “preparing the laws” and in decisionmaking, “contributes to public functions,” and is “responsible for the smooth functioning of the institutions.”101  

Generally speaking, various definitions of a “good citizen” in the Arab nations emphasize the attributes of patriotism, support for the ideology and political program of the regime, and, in most cases, loyalty to the ruler as well. In countries such as Lebanon and Tunisia, where a “good citizen” is portrayed in the textbooks as an active participant in the political process who holds the elected officers accountable to law, students are aware that these statements are irrelevant to their daily experiences in politics and society. 

Civic Activities and Skills 

Topics on civic participation in the civics textbooks are limited. Common among Arab nations are the topics of volunteering, community service, caring for the environment and natural resources, caring for public facilities, and charity work. Helping the needy and the sick is often presented as a religious duty rather than a civic responsibility. In general, the theme of civic participation is limited to its social aspects rather than political life. Less common among Arab nations are the issues of participation in elections to select people’s representatives or engagement in community activities aimed at influencing policymaking. In Algeria, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, and Tunisia, the civics textbooks are explicit about the importance of participation in voting and more generally in civic life, such as in national and provincial organizations.

Generally speaking, civic participation includes engaging in decisionmaking through governance and voting as well as influencing policy through various actions, such as petitioning and conducting peaceful protests. But in the textbooks surveyed, only voting is mentioned as part of decisionmaking, and then it is only mentioned in nations that allow voting for parliament or municipal councils. No part of the textbooks guides the students or presents models on how to influence policy, such as the use of petitions, community action, or peaceful demonstrations and the like. When it comes to community participation, the discussion in textbooks is restricted to volunteering in nonpolitical organizations, notably sports clubs and social charitable societies. But none of the nations surveyed encourages students to become politically active or to join political parties. 

Learning involves the development of new knowledge, skills, and disposition. The knowledge component of citizenship education is important yet not sufficient, even if the formal curricula were impeccable. The student needs to develop citizenship skills through practical exercises, extracurricular activities, participation in decisionmaking at school, and off-campus engagement in social and political activities. This component is either missing or very deficient in the citizenship education programs of Arab nations. Extracurricular activities that aim at developing citizenship knowledge, skills, and values are either missing or restricted to nonpolitical activities. Authoritarian Arab regimes pay special attention to schools’ celebrations of national events, which in many cases include large public displays of allegiance to the state and the ruler.

Civic activities outside school are not required, except in Bahrain, where a summer internship in public institutions is required for secondary-school students. Some nations—Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, and Tunisia—encourage students to engage in voluntary social work and community service during their free time and summer vacations. Yet, this encouragement does not translate into meaningful regular activities. Political activities outside school are either not encouraged or banned in almost all Arab nations.

Of the very few examples of a government initiative to engage students in citizenship-related activities is the “student parliamentary councils” project in Jordan that began in 2010. Through this project, students in public and private schools learn democratic practices and develop key citizenship skills, such as negotiation, dialogue, respect for diversity, and the procedures of civic participation, including voting and running for office. However, the effectiveness and the outcomes of this project have not been assessed.

Some Moroccan schools have a special club for education on citizenship and human rights. Its guiding manual describes the concepts and domains of education on human rights, the creation of a school monitor for rights and responsibilities, and the operations of the club regarding activities on citizenship and human rights through projects and peer teaching. The manual presents the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a simplified version of the international charters on children’s rights.102 

The studies conducted indicate that the practical side of citizenship education is largely neglected or suppressed. This hampers students’ development of actual citizenship experiences and skills. In addition, the general school climate is authoritarian and not conducive to fostering those skills. Consequently, students are not likely to develop the behavioral dispositions and social values that support democracy and pluralism. Surveys of Arab students’ attitudes and values regarding citizenship concepts and issues are few, but those that have been published confirm this conclusion.


The findings of the Carnegie-commissioned studies add useful recent information to existing knowledge of citizenship education in Arab public schools. These findings show that while efforts are being made to introduce concepts such as democracy and human rights into civics textbooks and curricula across the region, teaching methods and practices are failing to encourage the skills and engagement needed for modern citizenship. This wide gap in stated goals and implementation is at the heart of the challenge facing “citizenship education” in the Arab world today. 

Each nation studied is dealing with different circumstances and challenges when it comes to citizenship education and will have to develop its own initiatives and action plans. An important first step should include the development of a national initiative on education for citizenship that is strategic and long term but also based on a realistic action plan. 

While efforts are being made to introduce concepts such as democracy and human rights into civics textbooks and curricula across the region, teaching methods and practices are failing to encourage the skills and engagement needed for modern citizenship.

This task should be entrusted to a group of professionals comprising the core of a larger network of respected experts and stakeholders at the country level, such as a “national council on citizenship education” or a “higher authority on citizenship education.” This network could include Ministry of Education officers, teachers, school administrators, university professors, researchers, community leaders, concerned nongovernmental organizations, private businesses, parents, and students. It can be an effective mechanism for advancing the agenda of education reform with an emphasis on education for citizenship. 

The network’s goals would be to:

  • Develop a common understanding of the issues, concepts, and approaches among network members
  • Build collaboration, consensus, and commitment among them
  • Establish partnerships with public and private agencies and influential leaders
  • Design a new initiative in citizenship education as part of a more comprehensive school reform
  • Develop an action plan for implementing the new initiative
  • Promote the initiative and help secure adequate funding
  • Set up a system for monitoring and evaluation 
  • Evaluate the effectiveness and learning outcomes of the initiative. 

But the success of these national initiatives requires serious, continued governmental commitment as well as strategic planning based on solid, recent research into the shortcomings of the existing citizenship education programs. The Carnegie Middle East Center is implementing a research agenda (presented in a separate document) that targets these shortcomings. And the findings from the prospective research projects will be useful to inform policymakers as they plan for evidence-based program development.



1 Executive summaries for the eleven individual country reports referred to in this paper are available in an addendum to this publication.

2 Classification of countries according to a democracy index is based on five indicators as assessed by the Economist Intelligence Unit in its 2010 publication Democracy Index 2010: Democracy in Retreat, The indicators are: “electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, the functioning of government, political participation, and political culture.” States are classified into four types of regimes: “full democracies, flawed democracies, hybrid regimes, and authoritarian regimes.” For Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia, where the political regimes either changed in 2011 or introduced significant democratic measures, the author contends that according to the Unit’s indicators, these three states should now be classified as “hybrid regimes.” Ranking of countries according to their status of freedom is based on Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2012, which assesses the status of freedom in two domains: political rights and civil liberties. States are classified into three types of regimes: “free,” “partly free,” and “not free.” Most Arab countries are described as “not free” because of the lack of basic political rights and basic civil liberties. However, the freedom status of Egypt has improved, although it remains among the “not free” group of countries. For details, see

3 See, for example, the following papers prepared for the Carnegie Middle East Center in 2012 (Arabic): Elham Abdulhameed, “Egyptian Education and Its Relationship to Citizenship Culture: Status and Prospects,” 15–16; Khawla Khanekah, “Education for Citizenship in Iraq,” 16–17.

4 Muhammad Faour and Marwan Muasher, Education for Citizenship in the Arab World: Key to the Future, Carnegie Paper, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, October 2011, 13, 14.

5 For further details, see Muhammad Faour, The Arab World's Education Report Card: School Climate and Citizenship Skills, Carnegie Paper, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, February 2012, 26–27.

6 Unesco, “Finance Indicators by ISCED Level,”

7 Ibid.

8 Adjusted net enrollment rate is defined as the “total number of pupils of the official primary school age group who are enrolled in primary or secondary education, expressed as a percentage of the corresponding population.” It is the most accurate measure of enrollment in primary education. It reflects the actual level of achievement of Unesco’s Universal Primary Education (UPE) goal. See Unesco, “Enrollment Ratios by ISCED Level,”

9 Ibid. The net enrollment rate for secondary education is the total number of students of the official secondary school age group who are enrolled in secondary education, expressed as a percentage of the total population in that age group. 

10 The assessment refers primarily to public schools based on the following papers (Arabic) commissioned by Carnegie Middle East Center and submitted between April and June 2012: Elham Abdulhameed, “Egyptian Education and Its Relationship to Citizenship Culture: Status and Prospects”; Khawla Khanekah, “Education for Citizenship in Iraq”; Muhyieddeen Touq, “Citizenship Education in Jordan and Palestine”; Naila Al-Silini and Ahmed Al-Hadhiri, “Citizenship Education in Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria”; Nemer Frayha, “Education for Citizenship in Lebanon”; Saif Al-Maamari, “Education for Citizenship in Bahrain, Oman, and UAE.” 

11 The index of school climate is a summary statistic that encompasses three aspects covered in TIMSS 2007: safety, teaching and learning, and institutional environment. Taking the international average as a benchmark or reference point, the positive values of the index indicate a positive school climate; negative values indicate negative climate; and zero indicates similarity with the international average. For details, see Faour, The Arab World's Education Report Card, 26–27.

12 Jordanian Ministry of Education, “Strategic Plan of the Ministry of Education, 2009–2013” (Arabic), 2009, 6.

13 Egyptian Ministry of Education, “A Proposal for a General Framework for Middle School Curriculum,” 2012, 5, and “A Proposal for a General Framework for Secondary School Curriculum,” 2012, 7. Available at

14 United Arab Emirates Ministry of Education, “Ministry of Education’s Strategy 2010–2020 to Achieve 10/10 on All Its Initiatives” (Arabic), 2.

15 As cited by Frayha, “Education for Citizenship in Lebanon,” 30.

16 Tunisian Ministry of Education, “Civic Education Programs for Secondary Level” (Arabic), September 2008, 3.

17 Palestinian National Authority, Ministry of Education and Higher Education, “Education Sector and Cross-Sector Strategy, 2011–2013,” January 10, 2010, preliminary draft, chapter one, 1.

18 The information refers primarily to public schools based on the country reports prepared for the Carnegie Middle East Center.  

19 The conceptual framework for the classification of approaches to civic and citizenship education is based on the International Civic and Citizenship Education Study (ICCS) of 2009. This is the largest international study on civics and citizenship ever conducted in 38 countries (none from the Arab region) by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA). The IEA is an independent international cooperative of national research agencies. See Wolfram Schulz et al., ICCS 2009 International Report: Civic Knowledge, Attitudes, and Engagement Among Lower Secondary Students in 38 Countries (Amsterdam: IEA, 2009) 27–31,

20 Surveyed in the ICCS 2009 International Report, 27.

21 Holy Quran, Al-Imran sura, verse 159.

22 Holy Quran, Ash-shura sura, verse 38.

23 Tunisian Ministry of Education, Civic Education (Arabic), Third Secondary Arts, 43.

24 Ibid., 46.

25 Algerian Ministry of National Education, Directive Law on National Education (Arabic), January 23, 2008, Official Gazette for National Education, February 2008, 21. 

26 Ibid., 15.

27 Ibid., 47.

28 Moroccan Ministry of Education and Higher Education, Directorate of Curricula, Education Programs and Directives for Primary Education (Arabic), September 2011, 9.

29 Jordanian Ministry of Education, National and Civic Education (Arabic), Grade 10, 2005, 38.

30 Ibid., 53.

31 Bahraini Ministry of Education, Article 1 of the constitution as cited in Education for Citizenship (Arabic), Grade 7, 30.

32 Ibid.

33 Bahraini Ministry of Education, Article 33 of the constitution, as cited in Education for Citizenship (Arabic), Grade 4, 43.

34 Bahraini Ministry of Education, Al-Islam wal-Qadaya al-Muasira (Islam and Contemporary Issues), secondary level, 2003, 17.

35 Egyptian Ministry of Education, National Education (Arabic), Grade 12, 2012–2013, 11.

36 Article I of the UN Charter.

37 Algeria, Directive Law on National Education, 17.

38 Ibid., 61.

39 Iraqi Ministry of Education, National Education (Arabic), First Intermediate Class (Grade 7), 55.

40 Iraqi Ministry of Education, National Education (Arabic), Fifth Preparatory Class (Grade 11), 48.

41 Lebanese Ministry of Education, National Education and Civic Upbringing (Arabic), Grade 10.

42 Moroccan Ministry of Education and Higher Education, Directorate of Curricula, Education Programs and Directives for Primary Education (Arabic), September 2011, 9.

43 Ibid.

44 Ibid., 108.

45 Ibid., 49.

46 Ibid., 94.

47 Palestinian National Authority, “Education Sector and Cross-Sector Strategy, 2011–2013,” 22.

48 Palestinian schools, Reading and Texts (Arabic), Grade 8, Part 1 (3rd ed., 2009), 61, as cited in “‘Victims of Our Own Narratives?’ Portrayal of the ‘Other’ in Israeli and Palestinian School Books,” initiated by the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land, Study Report, February 4, 2013, 39,

49 Palestinian Schools, Islamic Education (Arabic) Grade 11, Part 1, 2006, 58, as cited in “Victims of Our Own Narratives?” 39. 

50 Palestinian Schools, Islamic Education (Arabic), Grade 8, Part 2, 89, as cited in “‘Victims of Our Own Narratives?’” 40.

51 Tunisian Ministry of Education, Civic Education (Arabic), Third Secondary Arts, 27.

52 Ibid., 33.

53 Ibid., 38.

54 Tunisia, Social Studies, Grade 7, civic education part, 235.

55 As cited in Bahraini Ministry of Education, Education for Citizenship (Arabic), Grade 7, 41.

56 Ibid., 30.

57 Bahrain, Education for Citizenship (Arabic), Grade 8, 27.

58 Ibid., 42.

59 Ibid., 42.

60 Bahraini Ministry of Education, Education for Citizenship, Grade 4, 53.

61 Bahraini Ministry of Education, Islam and Contemporary Issues (Arabic), 11.

62 Bahraini Ministry of Education, Education for Citizenship (Arabic), Grade 7, 36.

63 Bahraini Ministry of Education, Islam and Contemporary Issues, 16.

64 Ibid, 18.

65 Egypt, National Education (Arabic), Grade 12, 61. 

66 Ibid., 72.

67 As communicated by the Ministry of Education on its website,

68 Egyptian Ministry of Education, Al-muwatana wa Huquq al-Insan (Citizenship and Human Rights), Second Secondary Class, (2012–2013), 60.

69 Ibid.

70 Touq, “Citizenship Education in Jordan and Palestine,” 32–33.

71 The texts of the documents are available online. For the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, see For the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, see; for the Arab Charter on Human Rights, see

72 As cited in Al-Maamari, “Education for Citizenship in Bahrain, Oman, and UAE,” 3–4.

73 Ibid., 4–5.

74 Article 13 of the Statute, as cited in Al-Maamari, “Education for Citizenship in Bahrain, Oman, and UAE,” 5.

75 Omani Ministry of Education, Education for All in the Sultanate of Oman, 1970–2005 (Arabic), 2006, 99, as cited in Al-Maamari, “Education for Citizenship in Bahrain, Oman, and UAE,” 8.

76Ibid., 12.

77 As cited in Al-Maamari, “Education for Citizenship in Bahrain, Oman, and UAE,” 9.

78 Ibid.

79 Government of Lebanon, “General Education Curriculum” (Arabic), 1997, 718. 

80 Palestinian National Authority, “Education Sector and Cross-Sector Strategy,” 12.

81 Touq, “Citizenship Education in Jordan and Palestine,” 3.

82 Algerian Ministry of Education, Directive Law on National Education, 10.

83 Ibid., 9.

84 Ibid., 61.

85 Egypt, New Constitution, Article 1,

86 Ibid., Article 2.

87 Al-Hadhiri, “Citizenship Education in Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria,” 1.

88 Moroccan Ministry of National Education, Primary Education Curriculum (Arabic), 2011, 9,

89 Tunisia, National Charter, 1,

90 Iraqi Ministry of Education, National and Social Education (Arabic), Third Intermediate Class (Grade 9), 2011, 11.

91 Bahraini Ministry of Education, Education for Citizenship (Arabic), Grade 8, 7.

92 Bahraini Ministry of Education, Al-Islam wal-Qadaya al-Muasira (Islam and Contemporary Issues), 93.

93Bahraini Ministry of Education, Education for Citizenship (Arabic), Grade 4, 43–46. 

94 Jordanian Ministry of Education, National and Civic Education (Arabic), Grade 10, 30. 

95 Chapter 19 of the constitution as translated and cited in Mohamed Madani, Driss Maghraoui, and Saloua Zerhouni, The 2011 Moroccan Constitution: A Critical Analysis (Stockholm: International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, 2012), 11,

96 Al-Maamari, “Education for Citizenship in Bahrain, Oman, and UAE,” 3–4.

97 Algerian Ministry of Education, Directive Law on National Education, 2008, 60.

98 Egyptian Ministry of Education, National Education, Grade 10, 2012–2013, 20.

99 Iraqi Ministry of Education, National and Social Education (Arabic), First Intermediate Class (Grade 7), 2011–2012, 58.

100 Lebanese Ministry of Education, National Education and Civic Upbringing (Arabic), Grade 6,

101 Civic Education Curriculum, Grade 10, cited under the heading “role of the citizen in institutions of society.”

102 Moroccan Ministry of Education and Higher Education, Regional Academy for Education in Sous, Masa, Daraa, School Education on Human Rights.