Secondary education between strategy and implementation [Archives:2007/1070/Front Page]

July 23 2007

Rasha Jarhum
For Yemen Times

SANA'A, July 21 ) The National Secondary Education Conference concluded with approval of the National General Secondary Education Strategy for 2007-2015, postponing the diversification structure of GSE to 2008, and limiting employment to teachers graduating from Education Schools.

The Ministry of Education in coordination with the World Bank organized a three-day National Conference for Secondary Education, under the slogan “Developing Secondary Education in Accordance to Strategy Ensures a Better Future.”. The conference was held to discuss the draft of the National Strategy of Secondary Education and other working papers such as secondary education and its relation to the labour market and to technical education and vocational training, as well as, to discuss a proposed conception for the structure of secondary education.

The opening ceremony was attended by his Excellency the Prime Minister, Dr Ali Mugawar, as well as, his Excellency Dr Abdulsalam Al Jawfy, Minister of Education. The conference was also attended by participants representing former ministers, donors, civil society, and different education institutions. The conference had an attendance exceeding the expected numbers to reach more than 550 participants.

Mugawar stated that the national strategy for Secondary Education is designed to address the imbalances of quantity and quality that constituted a problem in the secondary education during the last period, aiming to improving the quality and raising scientific capacity. He urged the participants to discuss how to make secondary education flexible and responsive to the needs of learners. He also emphasized on the importance to promote decentralisation by encouraging the different educational departments and schools at different levels to participate in the decision-making process.

Mugawar also stated that the priority should be given to reorganizing the structure of secondary education and diversifying its programs and disciplines. He also acknowledged the mechanisms followed in executing the National Strategy for the development of basic education in relation to the coordination and integration with development partners, as well as, the annual review held for assessment; and called upon the Ministry of Education to implement the same mechanism for the secondary education strategy.

The draft of the strategy underlined the current situation and challenges for Secondary Education. It showed that the average rate of annual growth in enrolment reached 8.1% in the period between 1999 – 2005, wherein the average rate was 6.1% for males and 12.2% for female students. The draft also drew attention to the gap between rural and urban areas as the total enrolment rate for the academic year of 2004-2005 reached 39.6% with the enrolment rates in rural areas reaching to 54% where 70% of the population resides. The draft also revealed that the percentage of female students in rural areas accounts to only 23% in comparison to 35% in urban areas. It was also revealed that the gender gap in General Secondary Education (GSE) increased from 0.27 to 0.48. Furthermore, it was found that only 2% of the students in Secondary Education are accommodated by the Private schools.

The draft also highlighted problems such as the stuffed theoretical curriculum that cannot be completed in 36 hours allotted for teaching, shortage of female teachers in rural areas, and the incompetency of the assessment system to evaluate students.

Dr. Abdul Salam Al-Jawfy stated that after three years in executing the national strategy of basic education, they have came to learn that proper planning is not enough if there is no clear mechanisms for evaluation and follow-up and that long term plans must include annual programmes for implementation. He added that a scientific and systematic planning was followed to develop the National Strategy of Secondary Education, drawing from national and regional expertise to improve the quality of secondary education and make it responsive to time as well as, to foster loyalty and protects national constituents. Al-Jawfy also stated: “The current capabilities do not meet our ambitions. That's why we invite the donors to participate in raising adequate support to launch the new era for secondary education that is characterized by flexibility and modernity. This is especially since we are approaching the Declaration of the Arab Decade of Education which is scheduled for next March.”

On the other hand, Aisha Foda, the Education Officer at the World Bank, stated that the strategy is important to improve the quality of education in Yemen as it constitutes a vital connection between primary and university education and to narrow the gender gap in both rural and urban areas. She further confirmed the donors' willingness to support the strategy in both the financial and implementation levels.

The conference concluded with approval of the NGSES, development of the diversification concept of the GSE curriculum for 2008 and coordination of teacher employment between the Ministry and Education Schools according to demand. Furthermore, suggestions were made for separating primary and basic schools from secondary schools, establishing websites for secondary education, encouraging investment to establish secondary schools, as well as, developing more rigorous school curricula, providing intensive training for teachers and diversifying education funding sources. Recommendations were also made regarding the development of evaluation and monitoring mechanisms, linking teacher promotion to completion of training courses and creating mechanisms to motivate female enrolment.

Dr Abdulaziz Habtour, Deputy Minister, commented that the conference produced a series of decisions, most importantly approval of a strategy, development of a diversification concept for the curriculum, and reorganization of the Secondary Education Structure. He added that improving the quality of education and increasing enrolment were also given high priority, as well as, establishing equality in Secondary Education opportunities. He further stated that he was very pleased with the valuable feedback received from members and participants of the conference and that the conference was successful in reflecting the high capabilities of female and male educators to work together in an organized and efficient manner in order to achieve shared goals.