Minister of Education:  “Private Education must be monitored and guided more in depth by the Ministry of Education” [Archives:1999/12/Interview]

March 22 1999

Education is the basic tool for any society’s transformation and modernization. Towards that end, the Republic of Yemen has invested heavily in this field. Even then, the growth has basically been in quantity rather than quality. The number of pupils and students has risen to nearly 4,000,000, and the total teaching and administrative staff of the Ministry of Education has exceeded a quarter of a million. 
Ismail Al-Ghabiry of Yemen Times went to speak to the Minister of Education. Here is the interview he filed. 
Q: In the Decentralization Seminar, it was stated that your ministry has decentralized its work. Can you offer us details? 
A: That is true. The Ministry of Education has delegated a lot of authority to the governorates and even to the districts, and even to the schools. Departments of education all over the country are authorized to deal with administrative, financial, and other other responsibilities. 
This orientation fits well in the general orientation of the state towards decentralization. Through this experience, we have been able to come out with the following positive points. 
– Offering a practical experience to the state’s orientation on decentralization. 
– empowering the educational offices in the governorates and making them realize their importance and responsibility for any decision making or problem solving. 
– The prompt handling of issues and problems 
– Transferring some of the heavy burdens on the Ministry, so that it can attend to the more important duties of supervising, planning and improving the general performance of the whole educational system. 
– Training the staffs of the educational offices and departments on the process of decision-taking and decision-making. 
However, despite these advantages, there are a number of shortcomings in this experience which are mainly related to the absence of a well-qualified and efficient administrative staff. Also, the authorities we give to the branch offices of education have created some problems due to the absence of the coordination with the other concerned parties. But in general, I can say that decentralization is an integral part of the state policy. I think everyone should work for strengthening this trend gradually. 
Q: Private education has been coming on strongly. Can you tell us about the experience so far? 
A: Private or generally non-governmental education is an old affair in Yemen. However, it remained limited in scope and prevalance. Given that education is a basic right for every citizen guaranteed by the Constitution and the Law irrespective of gender, or socio-economic conditions or any other considerations, the government has worked on expanding educational services and facilities in the best way it could, within the limitations of its budget. Nevertheless, due to the enormous increase in demand on education, the state began during the last few years to encourage non-government education. In fact, private education has been rapidly expanding and developing and is still expected to increase in higher rates in the coming years. 
However this expansion in private education has raised a lot of organizational and educational questions of relevance to the public. 
Thus, professional educationists strongly believe that there is need for the following: 
– To reorganize private education in accordance with sound rules effectively controlled by laws and procedures and carried out by efficient and practical steps. 
– To strengthen the Ministry of Education’s role in monitoring and guiding private education. In fact, we have recently put this role in effect. 
Q: How much do political security, top officials, and other power centers interfere in your job? 
A: There is no pre-meditated or intentional interference in our work from any of those you named. Yet, I have to say that the educational system does not exist in a vacuum. It is part and parcel of the society. Therefore it is just normal that it affects and gets affected by the system, and its entire social structure. 
Q: How far have you come in incorporating the religious institutes/schools within the regular public school system? 
A: Law no. (45) for the year 1992, article no (37) has defined the procedures for incorporating religious institutes into the public school system. Along the same lines, President Ali Abdulla Saleh has issued Republican Decree #14 of the year 1999. The third article in this decree states that a special committee is henceforward authorized to adopt and approve the educational philosophy, policies, and objectives in the curricula submitted to the committee by the Ministry of Education. The final target for the committee will be to set up unified curricula for all students in basic education level (from 1 to 9 grades). This is the right and practical step in order to conceive curricula which: 
– are built and designed according to a clear educational philosophy, policy and objectives. 
– fully comprehend the country’s reality and circumstances. 
– meet the needs of both the individual and society. 
– are integrated, harmonized, and coherent. 
– are unified and can provide the minimum and common ground of experiences and public knowledge for all students. 
Today, we are streamlining all our efforts and activities in this direction relying on clearly specified steps and procedures. 
Q: We hear that the distribution of scholarships is controlled by corruption and favoritism from outside the Ministry? 
A: Such a statement is absolutely untrue. As you may know, the number of Yemeni students we send every year to study abroad is decreasing. This has started when universities in Yemen began to absorb a growing numbers of high schools graduates. Therefore, the number of students abroad has become small. As for the allocation of available scholarships, it is usually controlled by the following considerations: 
– Each governorate in the republic has its quota of scholarships based on its population and high school graduates. 
– There is an official announcement of the available scholarships through the national media. 
– The departments of education in the governorates follow the same rules and procedures of competition among the applicants, and prepares the final results of the successful students. 
– In the light of reports submitted to the ministry from the educational offices, the ministry announces the final results through the national media. 
It then completes the procedures of the acceptance of the qualified students, processes their placement and admission, and later their transportation to their destinations. 
I would like to affirm here that in regard to these logistical matters we have no problem. The only problem we face is related to the students who on their own are able to secure free seats in foreign universities, and then turn around ask the ministry for financial assistance. 
I also would like to inform Yemen Times readers that the law which organizes the awarding of scholarship has been issued and we are now preparing its executive by-law. According to this by-law, three committees will take care of the issue of scholarship, and each committee will be responsible for specified duties. So from now on this issue will be streamlined through those organizational channels. 
Q: What is the main pressing concern of your ministry at this time? 
A: The concerns, problems and difficulties are many and different. Given that education is an integrated comprehensive structure and yet consists of interdependent parts, it is only through a total view – or shall I say vision – that real improvement can be realized. Taking this into account I can summarize the following main concerns: 
1) On the job training programs for teachers. 
2) Paying special attention to long-term planning as the only viable approach to improving education. 
3) Attending to the qualitative sides of education. 
4) Establishing a well-qualified educational management which is capable of periodically leading, renovating, and improving the process of education. 
5) Achieving the best utilization of available sources (material or human). 
6) Promoting female education by encouraging female enrollment in school, and constructing more girl schools. 
7) Intensifying illiteracy eradication programs. 
8) The improvement of the curricula. 
Q: What is in store in your near-future plan? 
A: As you know, to reach a sound plan, your decisions must rely on accurate, complete and up to-date information or data-base. This is essential to diagnose the present realities and to assess its growth in quantity and quality. 
Thus, in recognition of a good data-base, we are moving along this line. We have completed the first phase of the comprehensive educational survey in the year 1997-98. We are now working on the second phase for the year 1998-99, with the participation of the Central Organization for Statistics. There are yet three phases to be completed over the next three years. 
Q: How far have you come in your efforts to put the Teacher’s Law into effect? We know many teachers are impatiently waiting, and are regularly complaining. 
A: We have started the implementation process since last November. But it is a complicated process and we are doing it in stages. 
We formed a supreme committee to look into all aspects related to implementation of this law, including preparation of its executive by-law and the other complementary decisions. In two months of active involvement, we have come up with a complete plan on how best the ministry can put the law into effect. 
We then embarked on the second phase which is to record complete data of the working force in the teaching profession. This phase is almost complete. The supreme committee is currently busy in preparing for the third phase related to job classification as defined by the law. This phase is scheduled to begin immediately after the Eid Al-Adha.