Lebanon News

Education in Lebanon mired in problems: Bou Saab

Bou Saab arrives to attend a news conference in Beirut to announce his education reform conference. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: The Education Ministry is to launch a workshop to address the myriad of inadequacies plaguing public education in Lebanon, Minister Elias Bou Saab announced Tuesday. “Public schools aren’t in their best form. The curriculum isn’t in its best form. Teachers, their class conditions and preparedness, aren’t in their best form. The official exams also are not in their best form,” Bou Saab said during a news conference at the ministry in Verdun.

“For these reasons I’ve decided to launch a comprehensive Lebanese educational conference,” he said. The event, titled “All for Education,” will include participation from officials and local communities and will be held from April 21-22 at the Phoenicia Hotel in Mina al-Hosn.

The goal of the conference, the minister said, would be to acknowledge challenges present in education services and pen a plan to solve them. In the year he has served as education minister, Bou Saab said he became aware of various “gaps” in the education system that need to be addressed. Top among these is the school curriculum.

Decree No 10227, issued in 1997, stipulates the curriculum be updated every four years, the minister said. But Bou Saab said the regulation has not been implemented since 2000.

“For 15 years now, attempts are still in progress. But if we want to judge according to the results, to what has been provided to students, there is nothing,” Bou Saab said. Although efforts have been made to develop kindergarten-level schools, “until now no developments are apparent,” he said.

Updating the history curriculum will be a particular challenge for the ministry, as public schools lack updated textbooks covering Lebanon’s modern history. Current textbooks cover Lebanese history until 1943 and do not delve any further due to political sensitivities.

Official exams are also another point of weakness in Lebanon’s education sector, Bou Saab said, adding the status of official exams was related to the curriculum issue.

“What’s the use of these official exams today for the student?” Bou Saab asked. He criticized the fact that both the official exams and the curriculum don’t develop students’ analytical thinking nor do they widen their scope of creativity.

With regard to the official exams, the ministry faces a host of logistical problems, the minister said.

“We don’t hide behind our finger and the exams are good and those taking them are getting the grade they deserve,” the minister said. “There is cheating in the official exams, and I saw this last year.”

Although the Grade 9 and Grade 12 official exams weren’t marked due to a teacher boycott, Bou Saab said he was able to catch cheaters during visits he made to test centers.

“The Education Ministry can’t control this situation because of the way the tests are taken; this is one of the topics that we will discuss during the conference, so that we can reach a solution about how to conduct exams with good results, in a setting we can control.”

Some of the topics that the conference will tackle include education for people with disabilities, child protection and teaching the private sector.

“Two-thirds of Lebanese students study in the private sector,” Bou Saab said. “We should take care of this sector more, there should be care for it from the ministry side and it should be involved in education processes.”

The conference will also tackle education in the event of emergencies, such as the Syria crisis. This particular aspect is vital because, according to Bou Saab, the number of Syrian refugee students in public Lebanese schools exceeds those of Lebanese students.

“Many Lebanese are leaving schools because the number of Syrians is so high and the quality of education is no longer the same ... this is a point we will try to solve.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 08, 2015, on page 4.

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