Back To School In Lebanon
August 20, 2023
As students around the world gear up for the new school term, the educational landscape in Lebanon stands in stark contrast. Amidst a crippling economic collapse and political turmoil, the education system in Lebanon is facing profound challenges that threaten its long-term recovery. Parents and students are grappling with the severe consequences of a shattered economy, leading to escalating costs, plummeting standards, and a debilitating brain drain. In this blog, we delve into the lingering effects of Lebanon’s economic collapse on its education system and the urgent need for reform.
The Cost of Education: A Burden Too Heavy to Bear
Lebanon’s education system, once a point of pride, has been deeply impacted by the country’s economic woes. With the Lebanese pound’s devaluation and rampant inflation, the cost of education has soared beyond the reach of many families. The projected average cost of $550 per child for the upcoming school year has become exorbitant when compared to the average monthly salary of less than $200. The result? Families struggling to provide their children with access to education, a fundamental right that is slipping away.
Fading Standards and Diminished Quality
Lebanon’s educational standards have been declining for years, a trend exacerbated by the ongoing economic crisis. Despite having once boasted scores above the OECD average, Lebanese students now find themselves lagging behind. A lack of investment in public education, particularly at the primary level, has contributed to this decline. As the government’s resources fall short of meeting educational needs, schools have been forced to rely on fundraising campaigns, alumni contributions, and additional fees from parents. This vicious cycle of financial strain has led to compromised quality, reduced extracurricular activities, and even the inability to provide basic necessities like electricity and heating.
Educational Institutions Under Siege
The economic collapse’s impact on Lebanon’s education system has been acutely felt by educational institutions across the country. Many schools have struggled to stay afloat, resorting to fundraising and appeals to the diaspora to sustain their operations. Capital controls have further deepened the crisis, leaving schools unable to access their own funds and driving some to closure. The situation has been dire for specialized institutions like the Beirut-based 123 Autism School, which lost contracts due to financial constraints and faced challenges retaining both students and teachers due to low salaries.
A Deteriorating Brain Drain
Lebanon’s educated professionals are facing limited opportunities in their home country, leading to a brain drain that threatens the nation’s future. Skilled graduates and teachers are seeking better prospects abroad, leaving Lebanon with a depleted pool of talent and expertise. This mass exodus not only hampers the immediate educational landscape but also poses long-term risks, as the return of experienced educators becomes increasingly uncertain.
International Aid and Urgent Reforms
International agencies and NGOs have been instrumental in providing aid to Lebanon’s beleaguered education sector. Organizations like UNICEF have extended financial support to public schools, provided in-kind donations like books and stationery, and assisted families with transportation costs. Initiatives such as the Productivity Allowance scheme aim to stabilize the wages of teachers and administrative staff, and summer school programs aim to address the learning losses suffered by students.
However, these measures only scratch the surface of the problem. Urgent reforms are needed to overhaul Lebanon’s education system. Reducing surplus teachers in some areas, expanding classroom capacity where needed, and launching inclusive education strategies are all crucial steps. UNICEF’s support in policy work and technical assistance is pivotal, but sustained commitment from the government is imperative for real change.
Conclusion: A Call for Hope and Change
As the world witnesses the hustle and bustle of back-to-school preparations, Lebanon’s education system hangs in the balance. The economic collapse’s relentless grip threatens not only the current generation’s educational prospects but also the country’s ability to rebound in the long run. Urgent reforms, international aid, and a concerted effort from the government are essential to salvage Lebanon’s education system from the brink. Without swift action, the fading light of education in Lebanon could cast a shadow over the nation’s future.
As we reflect on the disparity between children choosing character backpacks and Lebanese children struggling to afford books, let’s raise awareness about the urgent need for change. With collective efforts and a renewed commitment to education, we can help restore hope and vitality to Lebanon’s education system and ensure that every child has the opportunity to learn and thrive.