Recent events continue to underline the fragility of the Arab region. Civil war rages in Syria, refugees surge
across borders and the lasting effects of the Arab Spring are uncertain. What is certain, however, is that
it is essential to give attention to the welfare of the region’s young people and to economic health in order
to build the foundations for lasting political stability and, in many countries, for a transition to democracy.
Education is central to this effort. In particular, the ability of educational systems to help the region’s children
and youth develop the competencies and skills that will serve them well for their future lives and livelihoods.
Economic conditions in a number of countries have deteriorated recently, contributing to a sense of disillusionment and frustration among the population and especially youth. In Egypt and Tunisia, for example, citizen attitude surveys indicate that 83 percent of Tunisians and more than 70 percent of Egyptians are unhappy with current economic conditions (Pew Research Center 2012). Youth unemployment is a grave concern.
Official unemployment figures tend to underestimate the magnitude of the problem, and especially the problems related to youth exclusion and women’s access to jobs.
In Tunisia, for instance, youth make up 33 percent of the labor force but account for 75 percent of the unemployed. Most governments have so far concentrated on stimulating labor’s demand side (e.g., through investment climate policies) but have been paying less attention to the supply side (e.g., ensuring that youth have the necessary skills to compete in the labor market).
The purpose of this report is to shine a spotlight on education in the Arab world at a time when most public
attention is focused elsewhere, and thereby to open a dialogue about this key issue. It is crucial now, more
than ever, to provide support for the ongoing efforts of Arab educationalists—the many actors and innovators
who are working day by day to provide education to the region’s young people. Progressive and smart
investments in education made today, including those focused on children affected by conflict, will reap large
benefits in the future.