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  • Writer's pictureDurham Pro Bono Blog

Education and Employment in the Middle East

Disclaimer: The views expressed are that of the individual author. All rights are reserved to the original authors of the materials consulted, which are identified in the footnotes below.

With the governments across the MENA region investing heavily in education, the past few decades have witnessed a rapid extension of primary, secondary and tertiary education. Yet, the results have been disappointing as the gap between education and employment widens in the Middle East.[1]Universities are producing graduates without giving them the skills needed to succeed in job markets and the job market is also hamstrung by economic mismanagement, the result of which is high levels of education but increasing unemployment.

According to the June 2013 Middle East Workplace Dynamics poll, 63 percent of professionals in the MENA region believed that the job market was picking up whereas 20 percent still felt that the current education system was not giving them the skills required to succeed in the job market. Furthermore, around 73 percent of the respondents in the February 2015 Education and innovation in the Middle East poll thought that the education system in the country was suppressing their creativity with another 42 percent thinking that more innovation was needed in the education system for it to adapt to changing times and needs. What’s more is that the majority of the millennials wanted training opportunities to enhance and learn new skills.

One of the biggest aims of acquiring education and new skills is to gain a perspective and outlook that helps one build a career but sadly, this link seems to be slowly shattering in MENA. The reason why is an extensive amount of investment cannot create as much economic growth, jobs and youth opportunities as it should leading to misalignment that exists in the education system and job markets.[2]

The Middle East must urgently increase the investments in training, that is to say it must build competences and skills that are linked with problem solving so that when graduates look for a job, they find a company where they can learn something productive. In fact, according to a poll conducted in 2015, for many MENA professionals, learning and training opportunities are the top priority after money. Moreover, academics and teaching styles in schools and universities must match the needs of the current workforce. This may be a complicated topic to address or even fix but more effort needs to be put into it.

For instance, teachers and professors could coordinate with the corporate sector to understand the needs and requirements of the job market. In addition, training for the business world could also be made a part of the curriculum.

There is an urgent need to capitalize on development projects.

As far as the education in the region is concerned, online courses could be offered to reshape the system of education; some examples are the online courses such as the ones offered by on Edraak and platforms launched by the Queen Rania Foundation.

In conclusion, as illustrated by the Arab Human Development Report, “the most worrying aspect of the crisis in education is education’s inability to provide the requirements for the development of Arab societies.”[3]The main issue is that the educational system has not witnessed significant changes or reforms since a long period.[4] This is a major problem that needs to be addressed in the region.

Khadija Khan

Section Editor

Middle East


[1] Ayşen Altun Ada and Hakan Acaroğlu, ‘Human Capital and Economic Growth: A Panel Data Analysis with Health and Education for MENA Region’ (2014) 4 Scienpress Ltd 60.

[2] Elizabeth Buckner, The Role of Higher Education in the Arab State and Society: Historical Legacies and Recent Reform Patterns (2011) 3 Comparative & International Higher Education 21.

[3] David W. Chapman and Suzanne L. Miric, ‘Education Quality in the Middle East’ (2009) 55 Springer 311.

[4] Stephen P. Heyneman, ‘The quality of education in the Middle East and North Africa (1997) 17 ScienceDirect 449

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