Building a better Yemen: We need to change our school system [Archives:2002/51/Reportage]

December 16 2002

Yasser al-Mayasi
Yemen Times Staff
Knowledge, education and development go hand in hand. Any progress in society is attributed to the educational skills and abilities people assimilate during their lifetime. These generally depend on the kind of education they receive.
Further, an educated workforce is the cornerstone of any society. Most of the countries lacking basic education, and Yemen is among these countries, suffer in other areas also.
In Yemen, education has been deteriorating increasingly.
The inglorious conditions of learning inside schools, universities and the absence of a mature learning environment today have all affected the educational process.
The lack of proper methodical and systematic learning is also a stumbling-block holding back any educational improvements. In other words, the lack of educational means and resources like libraries or well-qualified teachers can be extremely harmful.
No definite vision of the educational strategy has been mapped out in order to improve the situation.This can be ascribed to a number of reasons summed here as follows:
First, Yemen has is still hurt by the negative effects of segregation, that is different curriculums dominated Yemen’s school system until 1990.
We should ask the people in charge of education whether the current curricula will take us to our goals.
The volume of science courses is too small in comparison with the theoretical courses. There is hardly any hands-on training and experiments.
The 1994 civil war had its negative effects upon learning in Yemen.
Books and teaching aids are the tools to use in reaching goals. But in most countries, there is a periodic review of the curricula in order to upgrade the information the students receive. In Yemen, this is lacking.
That is why some of the things taught in our classes are rather funny, if not absurd. Even if the syllabus is good, the teaching aids going with it are not available.
Let us take an example. The English Crescent series is provided with good recorded songs and dialogues that could make learning very exciting. Unfortunately, the tapes and recorders are not available in schools.
Conditions in schools in the countryside are even more pathetic. Over 120 students cuddle up to each other in each small classroom, and often must sit on the ground. Sometimes, people in charge of restructuring educational plan and amend syllabuses are not among the most capable educators persons.
Yemen has undergone a rapid increase of population, estimated at 18.3 million people in 2000.
The overpopulation constitutes an economic burden for the bodies concerned due to the limitless demands and needs of the social services and the essentials.
Such an economic deterioration has its own inevitable consequences upon the educational reality in Yemen. It has been estimated that the number of registrants at the basic school for both boy and girl students doesn’t exceed 62.3 percent.
There is another problem. It’s subsequent governments have not dealt with the topographical diversity which makes transportation inaccessible, and the building of schools, particularly in the remote and mountainous areas, isn’t happening.
Population statistics have indicated that the number of students at the general education schools total 4 million. The number of schools at both the urban and the rural areas have reached 14,000 schools. Most of these schools are concentrated at the urban areas and some districts which are in need of renovation and some other schools are built randomly and also in need of reconstruction.
There is a sharp shortage of qualified and specialized cadres in basic education. This is clearly represented by the incompetence of the qualified teachers, headmasters, and education inspectors.
It is noticeable that the traditional educational process has been still the most dominant method of teaching. Despite updated curricula in all its aspects particularly in its scientific method, there has been still shortage of labs, and other educational tools.
The educational problems in Yemen is not restricted to the basic education, it also comprises the secondary education outputs where only small number of students benefit from such education.
According to the statistics of the Ministry of Education, the number of high school dropoutsis estimated at 176,981, both males and females.
Clearing, financial aid is needed, and the private sector needs to help pave the way for a highly developed educational environment.
This, along with updating curricula and qualifying teachers, will also help pave the way for the unemployed.
While the need is for private investment, some have fears about the way the private sector runs schools, and that universities and private institutes will pursue excessive profits at the expense of good programming.