GOING PLACES

Lebanon 2018 | EDUCATION | REVIEW

A healthy mix of public and private players in the country's education system have made it one of the best in the region.

Despite regional and domestic challenges, Lebanon has held on to its reputation as providing one of the best educational systems in the region. Efforts from both the government and the private sector have resulted in a highly educated society with a wide variety of education options.

Arabic along with either English or French are the medium of instruction, and in some fields, such as mathematics and science, English or French are mandatory.

According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the literacy rate for those aged 15 and older is 93.9%, putting the country at 65th globally. The gross enrollment ratio for primary education is the highest of all levels, at 97%. Pre-primary education has a gross enrollment of 84%, the secondary level a 68% gross enrollment, and higher education has 43%. According to UNDP, the expected number of schooling years is 13.3, while the mean number is only 8.6 years. About 55% of the population over 25 years old has at least some secondary education.

Despite Lebanon's reputation for education, government spending on education is relatively low, reaching only 1.6% of GDP in recent years. The private sector spends considerably more on education, with recent statistics showing private sector contributions reaching almost USD1.8 billion, or about 4.4% of GDP.

Primary education lasts six years in Lebanon, and students then go on to three years of lower secondary education followed by three years of upper secondary education. At the end of the final year, students take part in the national exams, after which they receive the equivalent of a diploma. Secondary education also offers vocational programs, for which students can take a three-year track preparing them for practical professions, or a six year track preparing them for higher technical education.

In response to the perceived shortcomings of the public education system, an estimated two-thirds of the country's students attend private school. Bringing this number down and students back into the public sector is challenging for many reasons, most of which revolve around the fact that national curriculum has not been updated, and that national disagreements prevent history books from covering recent history following World War II.

Most higher education institutions in Lebanon are private, in fact all but one—Lebanese University. Lebanese University itself accounts for nearly 40% of the total number of students. Most higher education systems available in the country are heavily influenced by the French or American systems, and many offer a combined form.

University graduates make up 30% of the country's unemployed. There is somewhat of a mismatch between what universities are offering and the demands of the job market in Lebanon. Brain drain is a serious issue in the country, which primairily stems from an underdeveloped industrial sector in Lebanon. However, the options for university graduates are quickly multiplying in the country, and Lebanon is emerging as a regional hub for start-ups, innovation, and entrepreneurialism.

Lebanon is home to several prestigious universities in the region, including Université Saint-Joseph, Lebanese American University, and the American University of Beirut, which QS ranked number two in the region.

TBY recently met with the Minister of Education and Higher Education, Marwan Hamade, to discuss what the ministry plans to change in its highly anticipated curriculum update. “We are adding certain subjects related to mathematics and IT and introducing new programs to create a 21st century education program," Hamade said. “We are also revising the traditional classical humanities, which include philosophy, civic education, and history. A cohesive history book has yet to be written in Lebanon because of the inheritance of the civil war. I am supervising the publication of a new history book. Collective memory will be a major instrument of a peaceful Lebanon to most of us."