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Criticizing the five-year plan:

There is a need to adapt the five-year plan to the needs of the Palestinian society with a progressive concept. This means to understand the characteristics of the Palestinian Arab society according to its experience without exaggeration, as well as its Islamic Arab culture while respecting its singularities, in order to correct the current negative effects and to enhance positiveness. The discussion about the five-year plan confirmed the need for a correlation between the current improvement process and the cumulative radical reform process in the educational system, and the need to improve the performance of early childhood and pre-school level of education, psychological development of the child, learning Arabic, basic arithmetic skills and some information, without dividing them into the established subjects. But the plan did not provide sufficient mechanisms of adaptation, nor was it based upon "changing the situation of schools and classrooms […], and it requires to continue to give central role to knowledge objectives, to have unified school books as well as unified exams by the end of the school year".

Three: Problems

  1. Challenges faced by the Ministry in its attempts towards reaching the objectives:

At the beginning of every school year, the Ministry is confronted to the lack of qualified teachers, the incompatibility between narrow classrooms and the increasing number of enrolled students. It is also confronted to the degradation of a great number of school buildings, which are not well distributed geographically, and the lack of educational needs, teaching materials, and school services.

In addition to that, there is another set of various problems faced by the educational process. The main problems result from the uncertain political situation, which leaves many educational problems with no overall solution.

Among other general problems there is the lack of financial resources, high dependence upon donor states, which don’t honor their commitments or don’t respect schedules, volumes and types promised. This is why the Palestinian National Authority couldn’t set up a clear plan, for the current Palestinian development plan, including the education plan established by the Ministry, risks to fail to reach all its declared objectives or to change its priorities, as it happened with previous plans.

The Palestinian educational process faces many problems related to the nature of the Palestinian society and to the performance of the Palestinian National Authority like the following:

  1. Unequal opportunities of enrolment (children, girls, poor people etc)…
  2. Children with special needs (low enrolment ratio, lack of competence among teachers, absence of special teaching materials, lack of further special services and the related curriculum program).
  1. Economic situation and drop-out

The drop-out ratio might increase due to the structural adjustment of the Palestinian economy. In order to avoid any negative repercussions of the structural adjustment, and to limit the effect of external factors, Palestinians are seeking to accelerate the economic growth and to reach the higher level of competence like other parties. It is a good orientation economically speaking, but it is usually accompanied by negative phenomena like the attraction of children to the Labor Market and the increase of the drop-out ratio. These phenomena become more accurate within the framework of hard economic situations like in Palestine.

Four: Awareness, willingness and potentials

There is a general feeling among official and popular fields that there is a need for getting the educational process out of the current situation, which is due to several obstacles that impeded its development during the first period. The Palestinian National Authority represented by relevant ministries is working towards filling the gap between the current educational reality and the desired situation.

The report shows that there is a need for further efforts in order to overcome the possible failure of the educational process. The National Authority which is represented by the Ministry, expressed its awareness of this reality, this is why it resorted to planning on the short and long term (the setting up of the Palestinian Development Plan 1999-2003, the five-year plan of the Ministry of Education 2000/2001 – 2004/2005). Its aim is to compensate the shortcomings witnessed by the Palestinian Education in the first period and with minimum costs. The other relevant ministries are working in the same direction. On the other hand, the education process is still limited to relevant ministries, while the institutions of the local authority (municipalities and local councils) are still not participating in the educational process. This situation is consecrated by the applied municipalities’ law, which goes back to old days. This law is based on the principle of high centralization. The current law allows the local authorities and public committees only to construct school buildings, to add classrooms or to give other facilities to schools. For many reasons, most of the Palestinians send their children to Academic studies, although the attitude vis-à-vis vocational training and education had improved during the last three decades. However, the imbalance between the components of the Palestinian Educational process, the political and social instability, the absence of a national authority to guide and plan education according to social needs for a long time, the weakness of the Palestinian economy, the lack of professional schools, and the weakness of their potentials hindered the spread of vocational education. The implementation of the new Palestinian curriculum, the expansion and improvement of vocational training and education, the increasing demand on professionals with the spread of economic activities that require their skills are likely to attract more students to vocational training and education.

Furthermore, the private sector is not investing enough in vocational training and education so far. It limits its role to building and running cultural centers. The reluctance of the private sector to invest in vocational training and education is due to the high costs needed, and to slow profits expected, this is why the public sector and the civil sector (non-profit making) are the only contributors to the educational sector. On the other hand, both the profit-making and non-profit making sectors invest in Academic Education. What distinguishes the private sector from the public sector is that it is sensible to the society’s need for nurseries and kindergartens, and it is ready to satisfy the needs of the relatively wealthy category, who prefer to educate their children in a special environment.

Fifth: Progress Assessment

Assessment method and conditions of progress

During the last 10 years, it wasn’t possible to make an accurate assessment of the basic education progress, as mentioned before, because of the lack of comparative basis. However, the report, and through the reality witnessed by educators and parents, could assess the change that occurred in education between the first period and the second one; it could also assess the progress in the 2nd period.

We cannot say that education was in good hands during the 1st period, the evidence being the UN resolutions and Human rights.

On the other hand, many changes occurred when the Ministry took in charge education in Palestine, comparing to the 1st period. With the creation of the Ministry, and of the Palestinian central census unit, it was possible to direct the educational process towards serving the Palestinian Human being.

This contributed to stop the relative deterioration of the educational process in the West Bank and Gaza for three decades, and to improve and develop education quantitatively and qualitatively.

On the administrative level, the role of the council of higher Education has been integrated in the Ministry’s work when the latter took in charge the educational process in accordance with an official and internationally recognized agreement.

In addition, the leading role of the civil sectin education decreased after the institution of the Palestinian National Authority.

The quantum leap realized in education appears when we consider the big gap that existed between what was prevailing in the first period and the needs of the Palestinian child. Despite all this, the lack in school buildings, teaching materials, training, evaluation and measurement, development of education for persons with special needs, is still a problem in addition to the increasing need for improving the quality of education.

Performance assessment in basic education

According to the "census on services in the West Bank and in Gaza strip", in less than half of the schools, guidance services for students are provided, and guidance services in public schools are different from those in other schools. (there are 1835 students for one adviser). In 91% of the schools, there are Parents Committees and Teachers Boards (98% in public schools, 85% in the Agency’s schools, 60% in other schools). 37% of public schools, 48% of the Agency’s schools, and 100% of civil schools participate in special developing programs.

The effects of the teachers financial situation on the educational process

After its creation, the Ministry gave a special interest and high priority to the teacher’s cause. It gave teachers a certain degree of autonomy to take personal initiatives. Despite this, there is still a need for improving the living conditions of teachers especially with poverty prevailing amongst 23% of Palestinians (1997).

If we exclude Jerusalem, this percentage increases to 25%, and to more than 38% in Gaza, which means that 2 out of 3 Palestinian families in Gaza suffer from acute poverty.

The Palestinian report on poverty in 1998 defined the mean poverty line (monthly) and the highest poverty line (monthly) for a family of 6 members by 1398 shekels (about $ 400), and 1140 new shekels (about $ 285), respectively.

If we compare the teacher’s income in public schools (433 US $) to the poverty line, it appears that the Palestinian teacher lives near this poverty line.

Expectations and Recommendations

This report shows that Palestine provided formal basic education to the majority of those who are in primary school age (94.7%). But the indicator 15 in this report shows that the quality of education and learning in Palestinian Schools does not correspond to the expected level. The report indicates also that non-formal education and programs that help individuals acquire life skills, do not correspond to the desirable level. This is why the five-year Plan of Action for Education in Palestine for the years 2000/2001 – 2004/2005, the recommendations made by the National Team of the Education for All, and the five-year plan and the role of NGO, focus on the importance of realizing the following:

Formal Education

  1. School Buildings:
  2. To increase the number of school buildings and classrooms to have capacity for the annual increase in the number of students, to decrease crowdedness in classrooms and to get rid of inappropriate school buildings.

  3. Compulsory Education:
  4. To draft and publish legislation and laws, to establish a mechanism so as to oblige parents also to provide their children with compulsory basic education, not only the Ministry in providing education for all.

  5. Repetition and Drop-out:
  6. To limit and reduce drop-out, to find mechanisms to make dropouts come back to schools, to reconsider automatic promotion so as to fight its negative effects, and to be able to increase repetition ratios in order to improve education and study levels.

  7. School Services:
  8. To increase the number of specialized schools in Sciences, Computers, Sports, productive skills and libraries in order to improve the quality of education.

  9. Palestinian Curriculum:
  10. To implement the first Palestinian draft curriculum including the emphasis on the Palestinian identity and the values of democracy, good citizenship, international interdependence, respect of human rights and environment protection.

  11. Teachers:
  12. To improve living conditions of teachers and their functional performance through intensive in service training sessions. In this regard, a special attention will be given to the transfer of teaching techniques from instruction to the guidance of students towards participation and active learning.

  13. Assessment and Evaluation:
  14. To improve assessment and evaluation means especially high school exams so as to motivate students to learn and to have a creative thinking.

  15. Computers:
  16. To open computer centers in all the schools and in academic levels; to teach students how to use computers and have access to the internet in order to prepare them for the third millenium and enable them to work in modern professions. This would allow them to realize a good personal and national income in order to contribute to the development of modern national institutions required to build a civil society.

  17. Private schools and children nurseries:

To encourage the private sector to invest in education, especially to increase the number of pre-school centers as well as centers for people with special needs (disabled and gifted persons) and to improve their programs and the quality of their services.

10-Participation of the society:

To activate and organize the role of parents and the community, by establishing rules in order to develop the educational process. The Media, especially the visual ones, are one of the most important social institutions for supporting the improvement of the education quality. It is worth noting here that Palestine might be in an emergency situation that requires an immediate international assistance in case it reaches an agreement with Israel concerning the return of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees and displaced to their nation during the next five years in order to have capacity for their children in schools.

Non-formal Education

The national team and the follow-up committee discussed the issue and decided to hold a series of meetings and workshops to get informed about the role of NGOs in teaching life skills for the targeted categories of the Education for All program.

They reached the following summary:

Problems

  1. Lack of coordination and the double work undertaken by Governmental and Non-governmental organizations.
  2. Lack of follow-up, monitoring, assessment, and evaluation.
  3. Training and capacity building programs are not sufficient in terms of number, frequency, and contents.
  4. Financial aids are not enough especially to the civil sector.
  5. Lack of buildings and the inadequacy of some of them.
  6. Crowdedness.
  7. Centers graduates do not meet the needs of the society, whether quantitatively or qualitatively.
  8. Absence of regulations and the weakness of executive mechanisms.

Recommendations

  1. To increase coordination and remove duality between governmental and non-governmental organizations.
  2. To enhance follow-up process and monitoring, and to use assessment and evaluation means.
  3. To extend training in order to build human resources capacities so they could assume their tasks in a better way.
  4. To increase financial support for both governmental and non-governmental sectors.
  5. To program the efforts in order to get rid of buildings that are inappropriate to educational needs, to build centers that meet the functions of various institutions, in order to improve educational performance and to get rid of crowdedness.
  6. To conduct field and prospective studies to define the social needs and to review the performance according to the studies outcome.
  7. Enact laws and legislation, which guarantee the effectiveness of non-formal education.
  8. Eliminate drop-out.
  9. To adapt the environment of the various centers so as to make them accessible to persons with special needs and to optimize their use.
  10. To develop an educational philosophy which is adapted to Palestinian values and which corresponds to the needs of the Palestinian Society.
  11. To make the society participate in non-formal education and linking the latter to performance within families.

END


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