The Middle East/North Africa region has made tremendous strides in the provision of primary education over the past 25 years. The region achieved by far the world’s highest AARI in NE/AR with 1.4 per cent a year. If these average annual rates of progress were maintained, the region would be well on track to meet the goal of universal primary education by 2015.
The region is inevitably more diverse than its averages, however, as seen in the picture for the individual countries and territories. Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Qatar, the Syrian Arab Republic and Tunisia are all pushing close to universal primary provision. At the opposite end of the spectrum are countries where the education system is not as developed and where even the impressive AARI recorded in the region would be insufficient to ensure that all children were in school by 2015.
Quality of education, school dropout rates and the gender gap remain problems in the region, with gender a challenge particularly in Djibouti, Sudan and Yemen. UNICEF projects that 84 per cent of girls in the region will participate in primary school compared with 90 per cent of boys in 2005; in other words, 94 girls in school for every 100 boys, one of the lowest ratios in the world. In Yemen only 60 girls per 100 boys attend primary school. This is despite the huge advances in girls’ education in Middle East/North Africa in recent decades.
More significant than these numbers, however, is the concern that education largely reproduces and reinforces the wider social discrimination and economic/political disparities experienced by girls and women in many countries of the region. In that regard, education systems generally need to be more gender responsive.