Let’s Get Down to Business.
In a recent publication by Brookings: Tomorrow’s Skilled Workforce Requires Investing in Young Children Today: The Importance of Early Childhood Development we are reminded again of the imperative and critical need of early childhood education especially in low-income countries.
So why aren’t we using what works?
While the article highlights four compelling reasons – the one that resonates with us at TYO is the lack of the private sector partnerships. For years, we have witnessed the gap between university graduates skills-readiness and private sector needs in Palestine. We have listened as executives in profit-driven companies have lamented about the lack of a skilled qualified workforce, and simultaneously, graduates who cannot find employment even five years after graduation.
This is one of the reasons we partnered earlier this year with the Abdel Hameed Shoman Foundation (AHSF) creating the Student Employment and Training Program (STEP!) Together, we are providing a model that demonstrates how business can back education.
At TYO, we understand that academic institutions are not meeting the needs of their students and parents. With only a handful of public kindergartens in the West Bank, children are set up for failure before they ever step foot in first grade. Teachers who are unqualified, an archaic system that still uses rote memorization and ‘Tawjihi” testing for high school ‘achievement’ and perhaps most alarming, a lack of government oversight in public schools that are witness to increasing violence all create an ecosystem not conducive to learning.
In partnership with Columbia University’s School of Social Work in New York, STEP! is providing children in Nablus access to world-class early childhood enrichment programs. Focusing on themes like Community & Identity, Health, and Problem Solving – and doing it in a mixed gender environment – the results have proven to be dramatic.
However, the STEP! program does not stop there.
While we investing in tomorrows youth at the earliest ages – we also support university students and graduates in our in-service training program and university leadership courses. With 100 percent of in-service volunteers positively assessing their experience with the program, we are on the right track to creating a more hopeful and energized workforce. And, we are encouraged to see that the business community is finally seeing the results as well.
As Brookings notes, “Businesses need not make such investments just because they are moral or the right thing to do, but because they are in fact critical to supplying a skilled workforce of the future—something very much in business’s self-interest.”
Humaira Wakili, Country Director