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Tue 5 Feb 2008 07:46 PM

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Arab world failing children

Literacy levels falling behind those of other developing regions due to quality of education, study finds.

Literacy levels in the Arab world are falling behind those of other developing regions due to the poor quality of education, the World Bank said on Monday.

In a report on educational reform in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena), the World Bank also said the relationship between education and economic growth remained weak, despite improvements in countries' education systems.

“The divide between education and employment has not been bridged, and the quality of education continues to be disappointing…there continues to be an education gap with other regions,” the bank said.

"Countries in the region have made significant progress in reforming educational systems... yet these achievements remain below other countries at similar levels of economic development."

The inferior quality of the region’s education has resulted in reduced economic opportunities and lower financial growth than those of Asia and Latin America countries, the bank said.

The World Bank urged countries to accelerate reforms in order to tackle unemployment and spur economic growth.

According to the "Road not Travelled" report, per capita economic growth in the region over the past 20 years has been relatively low.

One reason is that the "quality of instruction in the region is too low for schooling to contribute to growth and productivity", the bank said.

Djibouti, Yemen, Iraq and Morocco were ranked the lowest in access, efficiency and quality of education, while Jordan, Kuwait and Lebanon were judged to provide the best level of education in the Arab world.

Egypt, Iran, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories were ranked as average by the World Bank.

It highlighted Yemen, Morocco, Algeria and Egypt as having particularly low literacy levels.

Despite a high average income per capita, Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia also provided lower quality education than most other Mena countries.

The report surveyed reform in elementary, secondary and university level education in Algeria, Djibouti, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, the West Bank and Gaza, and Yemen.

The UAE, Oman and Qatar were not included in the study.

The World Bank findings follow the release of a report in January by the Arab League Educational Cultural and Scientific Organisation that found 75% of the 100 million people in the Arab world are illiterate.

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