Around 25 per cent of students in the GCC believe that the region’s education system is in need of drastic reform while 67 per cent said that reforms would improve their education.
According to a Booz & Company study, GCC students said that they need better trained teachers and up-to date teaching methods. Students also urged policy makers to provide more choice in academic programs, treat extra curricular activities with the same importance as education and improve career counseling.
“While most GCC governments are aware of the problem and have made “human capital development” core to their policy agendas, problems still persist with the quality and relevance of GCC education,” said Leila Hoteit, a principal with Booz & Company.
“The underlying difficulty remains a gap between the skills that businesses need and what young people learn in schools.”
Recent research by the Economic intelligence Unit suggests that it is more important to assess the effects of the investments being made in the education system rather than just pouring in resources.
The number of GCC students is expected to grow from 9.5 million in 2010 to an estimated 11.3 million in 2020 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.8 per cent. Tertiary students are set to witness the highest growth during this period at a CAGR of 5.5 per cent, the study said.
Out of the GCC countries, students from Kuwait were the most confident about their country’s education reforms while a majority of UAE students said that their education system was better than what was available in the West.
Students from Saudi Arabia were the most dissatisfied with school infrastructure with the majority citing lack of recreational and academic facilities. Teachers’ competence was also an area of concern among Saudi students, the survey found.
Despite Qatar government’s efforts in creating more choices in schools, students said that they have absolutely no input in the educational decisions, resulting in a lack of trust in the government’s policies.
The study also found that GCC policymakers have failed to include students when introducing education reforms.
“Bringing students into the process of improving education is good policy and effective practice,” said Mounira Jamjoom, a senior research specialist at the Ideation Centre, Booz & Company’s think tank in the Middle East.
“Research shows that student engagement improves student-teacher relationships, practices and procedures, policies, laws, and culture. Moreover, more students “buying in” and trusting in the reform process is critical for reforms to succeed.”
The study said that it is imperative that GCC policy makers establish an on-going dialogue with students rather than just asking for their opinion.
A survey by YouGov, held in conjuction with Booz & Company, found that students too wanted to play a role in educational reforms.
“They see an opportunity to do so through school student councils and social media platforms,” said Jamjoom.
“In reality, 60 percent told us that social media has already made it easier for them to personally influence education reform. This view is especially prevalent among UAE residents.”