The Arab region has made progress in adult education efforts in terms of policy development, increasing women’s participation and improving participation rates overall, a new international report reveals.
But despite those gains, participation in educational programs for adults age 15 and over remains low, according to the fourth “Global Report on Adult Learning and Education,” from UNESCO’s Institute for Lifelong Learning. Of the18 Arab countries represented in the report, half of those with actual figures reported participation rates at or below 5 percent.
On the plus side, the report placed the Arab region second only to sub-Saharan Africa in the proportion of countries reporting improvements in adult learning efforts.
“The achieved progress indicates the awareness of the region’s countries of the importance of adult education and learning, and of providing people with skills and knowledge as a tool to achieve social and economic development,” said Samah Shalaby, a monitoring and evaluation specialist with the UNESCO institute.
That’s an important step toward achieving the goals described in the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, she said.
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Nevertheless, Shalaby believes that more support for adult education is needed, especially in light of the challenges facing adult education in the region, such as poor funding, poor program quality, and low literacy rates.
“Funding for adult learning programs should be considered a long-term investment, not just a short-need burden,” she said, noting that adult education programs can play a major role in unlocking the potential of youth and adults in developing Arab societies. “However, this requires renewing development concepts, implementing policies that suit learners’ needs, and increasing the budget.”
The illiteracy rate in the region was estimated at 21 percent in 2018, according to statistics from the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization—higher than the global average of 13.6 percent.