Modernizing MENA education |

Changes needed to unlock massive potential to address unemployment rates, resuscitate economic growth, and ensure long-term prosperity.

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, historically recognized for its strong educational system, is struggling to equip its students with the essential competencies required to secure employment opportunities. Furthermore, the region has a substantial number of youth, with over 28 percent of its population aged between fifteen and twenty-nine, according to World Bank Data. This represents a remarkable 108 million people—the largest cohort of young people transitioning to adulthood in the region’s history.

In order to accommodate the significant influx of youth into the workforce, the MENA region will need to generate three hundred million fresh employment opportunities by 2050. Interestingly, despite the generous spending on public education, the likelihood of unemployment may actually increase with higher levels of education, which sets it apart from other regions in the world.

As mentioned before, the education system in the MENA region often falls short in adequately providing students with the skills and competencies required for a successful path to employment. This gap is evident in the high percentages of skill deficits that exist across the region, with 70 percent of the workforce lacking essential skills. This figure underscores the urgency to prioritize closing the divide between education and employment. Without such efforts, the gap is likely to persist further as new technologies emerge, creating substantial obstacles for job seekers and organizations in search of competent candidates.

Identifying the challenge in the skill gap

The job market is constantly changing, yet educational institutions must adapt accordingly to ensure that students are prepared with the essential skills for success in the workplace. Recognizing these challenges can empower companies, education providers, and governments to address the skills gap, formulate effective strategies, and prevent future skill shortages.

Addressing challenges facing MENA students in the job market

Students need to be prepared to face real-world challenges, where they may be required to apply their knowledge to practical situations. In order for this to happen, they need to be taught problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, communication, and teamwork. These skills are difficult to acquire solely through classroom learning and require hands-on experience. Therefore, it is essential for educational institutions in the Middle East to provide students with opportunities such as internships, apprenticeships, project-based learning, and vocational and technical programs. By gaining practical skills and experience, students will be better equipped to meet the demands of the job market and become more competitive candidates for employment. Currently, there is a disconnect between education and employer demand—something that is evident in the youth unemployment rate, which stands at nearly 26 percent.

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