The view from Lebanon’s education ministry

Education for a new economy

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The Lebanese economy is changing. Our education system must follow suit. The Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE) is committed to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 Education, thereby committing to providing access to quality education for all children. Our work contributes to 12 other SDGs for 2030, including Goal 8 on decent work and economic growth and Goal 9 on industry, innovation, and infrastructure. Thinking ambitiously in these areas means Lebanon needs well-thought out strategies for the economy, for education and skills, and for future industries and innovation.

It is also clear that predicting the economic future requires more than a 10-year horizon. The education system must respond from a broad vision right down to what is happening in classrooms and lecture halls every day.

Changing markets

Diversity is a key characteristic of Lebanon, and our openness to and appreciation for other cultures dates back centuries. This gives the Lebanese a competitive edge, for as the world becomes increasingly interconnected and interdependent, “cultural competence” is more important than ever. Indeed, a globalized market will require not only technical competencies, but also socio-cultural knowledge and understanding. Global citizenship education is key to ensuring our students are equipped with the skills and attitudes that would enable them to thrive in multinational, multilingual, and multicultural environments.

Another pivotal aspect of future markets is the role of technology. It is evident that the future will hold greater technological and digital dependence. A three-year-old child who enters the education system today will enter the workforce after 2030. It is our responsibility to prepare these children for the future job market. How can we identify the markets and corresponding skills needed 20 years from now, with disruptive technologies altering life as we know it? Social media, smart phones, and ride-sharing applications have had a major impact on how we interact, work, and commute today, and these were all created less than two decades ago. The networking skills prepared through curricula designed 20 years ago would not have prepared today’s young job-seeker for the social networking market that exists now.  

The networking skills prepared through curricula designed 20 years ago would not have prepared today’s young job-seeker for the social networking market that exists now. 

We must think about more innovative and effective ways to incorporate education technology in our education system. Lebanese students have already won multiple awards in robotics. The MoEHE organized a coding week in 2018 that attracted thousands of students, and we are looking into using artificial intelligence to track students’ learning outcomes and cater to their learning needs accordingly. We aim to continue in that direction, ensuring we are making the most of what technology can offer to enrich the education of our students and prepare them for the future.

A digital future

Given the challenges of predicting markets, we must consider solutions that prepare youth for employment that we cannot yet envisage. One solution that research increasingly points to is a dual education system that simultaneously focuses on broad educational knowledge and the development of positive citizen behavior, whilst being much more explicitly linked to the world of work. This means regular exposure to the “career world” in schools. This could include job-shadowing activities, guest speakers from various professional fields, and workshops/training sessions on the digital technologies and processes used in the workplace. These activities would require intersectoral collaboration involving government agencies, civil society, and the private sector, to capitalize on what each sector has to offer.

Secondly, we cannot continue to view education as the attainment of knowledge alone. Lebanon, like many middle- and high-income countries, has a mismatch of learners to the economy. Solutions start with mapping our economy in detail and transposing the skills needed. We must start with a good foundation of general education, then build on broader competencies, such as creativity, adaptability to risk, and entrepreneurship. Many countries are also considering incentivizing life-long learning through, for example, individual “skills accounts,” so that even adults can afford to upskill themselves as technologies and their own careers change.  

Finally, we need to consider our education policies in conjunction with our job creation, and industrial and economic policies. We cannot invest in skills for a digital future if we do not simultaneously invest in upgrading and expanding our digital infrastructure.

Our goal must be to move forward consistently across education and industry, to ensure the future youth of Lebanon are able to adapt, navigate, and excel in this unmapped territory.

Fadi Yarak is the director general of education at the Ministry of Education and Higher Education.

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