Few regions invest more in the education of their young than the Middle East. Over the past two decades the region has expanded educational attainment and achieved almost universal enrollment rates. Yet, in most countries, the quality of education remains low and improved education levels have not led to greater economic opportunities. Early education is largely failing to provide youth under 15 years of age with critical life skills during their formative years. Adding to this disadvantage, secondary and tertiary education is geared toward providing diplomas rather than skills so that young people can secure public sector employment. However, with shrinking public sectors that are unable to absorb the growing cohort of youth, today's graduates need to be equipped with a greater range of skills that are not currently provided by the traditional educational system.
Education systems in the Middle East need to adapt to the challenges posed by a youth bulge and the needs of a global knowledge economy. To raise the quality of education and encourage investment in the right skills, incentives must be put in place to improve performance of those providing education services (e.g. teachers) as well as to give students and parents a greater voice in influencing education policies. The growth of private sectors across the region calls for greater business engagement in the provision of education as a way of strengthening links between the education sector and the labor market.
Paul Dyer considers the need for innovative, creative reforms to harness the economic potential and entrepreneurial creativity of Middle Eastern youth. This article was originally published by Knowledge@Wharton and is reposted here. The views expressed in this article are those of the published author.
Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, MEYI nonresident senior fellow, has authored a new paper entitled “Iranian Youth in Times of Economic Crisis” (2010) as part of the Dubai Initiative Working Paper Series. Using survey data for 2007 and 2008, Salehi-Isfahani reviews the evidence on youth transitions in Iran to show how the recent economic crisis has affected youth transitions to employment and to marriage. He also shows how transitions differ by family background and by region of residence – rural and urban.
The 2010 Egypt Human Development Report (EHDR) has been released and focuses specifically on the importance of youth in Egypt's economic, social and political development. The report, "Youth in Egypt: Building our Future", features a chapter by MEYI nonresident senior fellow Ragui Assaad on human development and labor markets, which investigates transitions into employment for Egyptian youth as well as the skills gap between education and employment and the occupational outlook facing young people today.
Presidential Summit Wrap-Up: Middle East Youth Initiative Research Featured at Summit and Brookings Launch Event
Ragui Assaad, Christine Binzel and May Gadallah share new findings on the transition to first jobs, job mobility, and the timing of marriage among young men in Egypt.
Youth Transitions to Employment and Marriage in Iran: Evidence from the School to Work Transition Survey
Ehaab Abdou, Amina Fahmy, Diana Greenwald and Jane Nelson propose recommendations to facilitate the development of institutional alliances that need to take place in order to capitalize on social entrepreneurship, boost economic opportunities for young people in the Middle East, and prepare the region become more fully integrated into a rapidly changing global economy.
Youth Exclusion in the West Bank and Gaza Strip: The Impact of Social, Economic and Political Forces
Edward Sayre and Samia Al-Botmeh examine three dimensions of the transition to adulthood by Palestinian youth: acquiring skills through schooling and training, finding employment, and forming a family.
Ragui Assaad, Ghada Barsoum, Emily Cupito and Daniel Egel present a comprehensive overview of youth exclusion in Yemen.
Generation in Waiting: The Unfulfilled Promise of Young People in the Middle East (Brookings Press, 2009), edited by Navtej Dhillon and Tarik Yousef, represents three years of research on youth exclusion in the Middle East.
Djavad Salehi-Isfahani and Navtej Dhillon present a framework for policymakers to improve youth outcomes by addressing institutional distortions across sectors: from the education system to the employment, housing, and credit markets.