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Learning to Earning: Forum Focuses on a Critical Transition for Youth

Four United Nations agencies recently convened a regional high-level meeting in Jordan to discuss how to ensure Middle Eastern and North African students have the market-relevant skills they need for making the transition from learning to earning.

The meeting, on the topic of “Young People’s Learning, Skilling and Transition to Decent Work”, acknowledged that the challenges young people face have only been exacerbated by the lack of political stability and civil conflicts in some of the region’s countries and the repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The meeting brought together young people, representatives of universities and other institutions, and policy makers to share good practices and develop recommendations for easing barriers on the path from school to a job.

Held in Amman in late May, the event was co-organised by the International Labour Organisation, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Population Fund and Unicef under the U.N. Arab States Issue-Based Coalition for Adolescents and Youth.

Recommendations include ensuring that curricula reflect market-relevant skills and enhancing young people’s opportunities for exposure to the world of work.

Young people from 18 Arab countries discussed their experiences and recommended ways to develop teaching and learning methods, examination methods, and curricula that better fit the labour market. Participants were from Algeria, Djibouti, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen.

A previous report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) noted that the Arab region has “one of the highest unemployment rates worldwide, especially among women and youth.”

The report, titled “Realities and Prospects in the Arab Region: Survey of Economic and Social Developments 2019-2020”, said the region’s youth unemployment rate was the highest worldwide at 26.4 percent, compared to a global average is 13.6 percent. For young women in the region, the unemployment rate was 38.5 percent.

Youth Skills Development

During the regional high-level meeting, a session titled “Young People Develop the Market-Relevant Skills” touched on the importance of identifying measures to tackle the challenges young people face in acquiring such skills.

Marwan Tarazi, director of the Center for Continuing Education at Palestine’s Birzeit University, said: “If we want a quality education, we must integrate skills into education.” Birzeit University is working to achieve that goal through interactive education, he said.

Another speaker, Mohamed Megahed, Egypt’s deputy minister of education for technical education, discussed his country’s efforts to rebuild its educational system in accordance with digital developments.

“If we want a quality education, we must integrate skills into education.”

Marwan Tarazi Director of the Center for Continuing Education at Birzeit University

He said that 45 percent of the in Egypt’s educational system choose to enroll in public education that qualifies them for university.

Egypt decided to rebuild its education system in 2018, he said, after admitting that the old system “was on the verge of collapse, because it was based on memorization rather than understanding. Students were only interested in obtaining a degree and not interested in acquiring skills, which produced generations of graduates who had nothing to do with the labour market.”

Empowering Women and Refugees

In another session, titled “Entrepreneurship as a Livelihood for Young People”, representatives of the business community and civil society discussed ways to develop learning environments and methods that would enhance equal opportunities for young men and women in entrepreneurship, and provide them with tools in order to develop a sustainable business.

In a session titled “Refugee Youth as Changemakers”, participants discussed the challenges that young refugees face in their transition from learning to earning. A number of refugees and displaced people also spoke about their personal experiences.

The topics discussed included creating fair opportunities for girls and young women, with the aim of motivating participants to think about how to break down gender-related barriers that hinder young women’s transition from school to work.

“The only way forward for a more sustainable world is to ensure that young women are part of the workforce of the future.”

Take-away from a panel on empowering disadvantaged groups

The session identified structural inequalities, gender stereotypes and biases, policies and enabling factors as key issues related to female labour-force participation. It stressed that “the only way forward for a more sustainable world is to ensure that young women are part of the workforce of the future.”


The meeting concluded with a set of recommendations for advancing education in terms of building students’ skills.

These recommendations called for:

  • ensuring that curricula reflect contemporary market-relevant skills;
  • strengthening cooperation between government ministries and the private sector in developing curricula and teaching practices;
  • enhancing educational curricula; and
  • improving the efficiency of teachers.

The recommendations also encouraged governments to invest in youth and called on education leaders and policy makers to empower youth to be change-makers.

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Further recommendations called for enhancing students’ exposure to the world of work, enhancing opportunities for internships, apprenticeships, and on-the-job learning, and providing career guidance to youth on market-relevant skills.

The high-level meeting will provide these recommendations from the Arab States to the U.N. global summit on Transforming Education, set to begin on September 19 in Paris.

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