Early Childhood Education: Access vs. Quality

In a recent podcast by the Brookings Center for Universal Education, Maysa Jalbout – an education advisor to government leaders and philanthropic organizations in the Middle East – discussed the greatest education challenges in the Arab world and what progress has been made to address those. “The Arab world has made huge progress in giving children access to school,” she says. However, she notes an important difference between access to school versus the quality of learning in the classroom: almost sixty percent of primary-school children in the Arab world are not achieving the minimum learning standards – for example reading and literacy levels – necessary at their age not only to access jobs in the future, but also to have the critical skills to pursue a healthy, happy, and productive life. Rabeea

Jalbout points to the increasing school dropout rate among boys as an indicator of low education quality; across the region, boys are less likely than girls to stay in school, achieve high grades, and continue on to higher education. The reason? Jalbout notes that “Quality impacts how children perform in school and their motivation to stay in school; so if young people, particularly boys [who face a higher pressure from their families and society to find employment], do not feel that they are receiving the kind of education that’s going to contribute to them actually being able to access the job market, then they are less likely to want to stay in school.” Importantly, she notes that the dropout trend is equally high across the region – across poor and wealthy countries, both peaceful and those facing conflict – which further narrows down the problem to the quality of classroom learning itself.

Although Palestine leads in elementary school enrollment in the Arab world, the quality of education varies widely, and most schools take a conventional approach modeled after memorization and rote learning. That is where TYO steps in. We understand the need to look beyond access to education and talk about the quality of learning experiences. And, we know that “quality" means looking beyond rote academic learning to a more holistic approach.

At the core of TYO’s education-driven programs is a focus on teaching the critical life skills needed to become active and responsible members of the community. Our Core Child Program curriculum, targeted for 4-8 year olds, helps children build their sense of self-efficacy, responsibility, and agency necessary to become active life-long learners and contributors to their communities. We focus on exposing children to new experiences in the classroom that they do not experience at home: for example, mixing children from the city and refugee camps, or mixing boys and girls in the same class. Through experiencing these alternatives children develop confidence in their ability to change their own situation and their communities.

- Niralee, TYO Core Child Program Manager