education in Palestine:
a continuing Challenge
development in Palestine is a unique, rich and challenging
experience. Unique because it is one of the very few places
in the world, if not the only one, where a Ministry of Education
is being built from scratch. Rich because of the eagerness
and motivation of the Palestinians to learn from others.
Challenging because Palestine is not yet an independent
country and is witnessing conflict on a daily basis. IIEP
describes the backcloth for its action there.
of the high interest and involvement of the international
donors, the room for broad partnership, policy dialogue
and co-operation in educational development work in Palestine
is vast. The amalgamation of diversified international working
methods and experiences is exciting and possible.
fact that Palestine is not yet an independent country and
is presently witnessing conflict provides opportunities
for a rich learning experience for development workers and
donors, and the international education community as a whole,
of maintaining the provision of quality education in situations
of emergency and crisis.
However, there is a risk that the conflict will also lead
to the complete destruc-tion of educational development
work in Palestine so far, as well as the loss of prospects
of peace in the country and in the region.
a Ministry of Education: IIEP's role
Palestinian Authority was establishshed in the West Bank
and Gaza in May 1994 as a result of the Oslo Agreement between
Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
The Palestinian Ministry of Education was created in August
the same year.
At the present time, the West Bank (covering an area of
6,257 Km 2 ) and the Gaza Strip (378 Km 2 ) have an estimated
population of 3.15 million Palestinians. About one-third
of the population are stu-dents at all levels of education.
All through their modern history, Palestinians have always
valued education highly. Enrolment in basic education (first
10 years of schooling) is almost comprehensive.
soon as authority for Palestinian education was transferred
from Israeli hands to the Palestinians, UNESCO came to assist
in the creation of the Ministry of Education and the development
of the education system. With financial and moral support
from the donor community, it helped with the construction
of badly-needed school buildings and in setting their norms
and standards, in curriculum development, the training of
teachers, the provision of furniture and salaries for the
central ministry staff, and in building planning and management
capacity within the education system. IIEP was entrusted
with the latter.
emergency to strategic planning for the future
funding from the Italian Government, IIEP implemented two
important projects with the Palestinian Ministry of Education
during its first four years of operation. These were intended
to train schoolheads quickly, as well as a number of supervisors
and officials at the district and central ministry levels,
in educational administration and financial management skills.
Soon, it became evident that the Ministry had to start moving
away from responding to emergencies towards strategic planning.
A long-term approach in managing the education system was
necessary to improve the quality and relevance of education,
to achieve cost effectiveness, to make yearly plans realistic
and achievable and to impress on donors that proposed projects
fit within a well thought-out longer-term vision. Again
with Italian funding, a project was launched in October
1998 to help the Ministry in strengthening its capacities
in policy formulation and planning and in the formulation
of its first five-year medium-term education development
plan. This project also included a functional audit at three
levels: central ministry, district and school. This audit
was deemed necessary in order to formulate rules and regulations
to improve the efficiency of the Ministry and to make it
ready for a successful and smooth implementation of the
educational vision and the Medium-Term Plan.
took the Ministry and IIEP a year to formulate the first
draft of the Plan. Meetings were organized in various districts
to discuss the draft with community representatives - parents,
political and social activists, leaders, education officials,
principals, teachers, students - and officials from other
ministries (especially planning, finance, higher education
and labour). Modifications were introduced in the draft
based on results of these meetings. More than 200 representatives
from international and donor agencies and Palestinian academic
and social institutions were invited to discuss the modified
draft in a Consultation Workshop held in Ramallah, Palestine,
in October 1999. The Workshop was also an attempt to link
this plan with those of the Ministries of Higher Education
and Labour, especially in the area of technical and vocational
education and training. The Workshop concluded that the
Five-Year Plan was too ambitious, and unrealistic, in trying
to address all the immense needs in education in five years.
The Ministry would not be able to mobilize the projected
funds nor have the necessary implementation capacity.
technical assistance from IIEP, the Ministry reworked the
plan and cut it down to almost one-third of its original
estimated development cost. This new projected cost was
within the range of yearly funds which the donors and the
Authority actually allocated to the Ministry. The process
of redrafting the Plan took almost a year. The most difficult
and time-consuming task was for the technical staff and
planners to convince the Ministry leaders and community
representatives that anything more than this pragmatic,
down-to-earth and minimum Plan was impossible to implement.
If it were not for the skills, capacity and computer simulation
models built by IIEP within the Ministry, this policy dialogue
and ongoing planning process would not have been as easy
or even possible. Consensus on the Plan within Palestinian
society was made possible thanks to the systematic approach
and the negotiating skills within the Ministry developed
during the two-year existence of the project.
success was also a result of continuity in the leadership
within the Ministry and its commitment to the strategic
planning and capacity building processes.
August 2000, the Ministry implemented the recommendations
of the functional audit. The central Ministry was restructured
in order to properly implement the Five-Year Education Development
Plan. A Second international Consultation Workshop was planned
for late October 2000 to present the final draft of the
Plan to the local and international communities for final
approval and donor consensus and, possible, fund pledging.
Unfortunately, the current conflict in Palestine has not
allowed this Workshop to take place. Development work is
simply not possible on a long-term basis in conditions of
conflict and crisis.
the work goes on
The Ministry of Education and IIEP are waiting for the return
to normal in Palestine in order to resume their partnership
and the successful development work which was achieved through
the project. Meanwhile, time is invested in translating
the Plan into annual implementation plans sensitive to the
new political realities and the outcomes of the conflict
on the ground. Throughout, the capacity of the Ministry
planners, officials andpolicy-makers is developed further
and put to test every day.