Exclusive – Lebanese Have More Faith in Private Schools than Public Ones

Exclusive – Lebanese Have More Faith in Private Schools than Public Ones

Wednesday, 21 November, 2018 - 08:15
Syrian refugee children queue as they head towards their classroom at a school in Mount Lebanon, October 7, 2016. (Reuters)
Beirut - Sanaa el-Jack
The Lebanese Ministry of Education has been exerting relentless efforts to combat the challenges hindering the education sector in the country. Public schools in Lebanon have seen better days amid a drop in enrollment in the elementary and middle levels.

Lebanon boasts 1,260 public schools that teach 314,726 students and employ 42,686 teachers.

They face stiff competition from private schools, despite their higher tuition fees, which the majority of Lebanese cannot afford.

The standards of public schools dropped during the civil war and their curricula remain outdated. This was not helped by the state’s granting of scholarships to the children of military officials and state employees enrolled in private schools. Instead of improving the level of education at public schools, the state is giving further incentive for parents to turn to private ones.

Scholarships make up some 430 billion Lebanese pounds of the state’s budget, revealed a study by Information International.

Given this reality, Asharq Al-Awsat approached General Director of Education in the Ministry of Education Fadi Yarak about the condition of the education sector in Lebanon.

He disagreed with the assessment that private schools offered a better education than public ones, saying they were on equal footing whether in elementary, middle or secondary school levels.

He added that a plan had been drafted to be implemented over a five year period, between 2010 and 2015, to improve public schools, but political turmoil in Lebanon and the eruption of the Syrian conflict in 2011 hindered it.

“We need stability in order to implement these plans and reap their results from among the various generations that are enrolled in public schools,” Yarak said.

The Syrian crisis, he said, has had an impact on public school enrollment, revealing that 51 percent of the elementary and middle school students were Syrian.

Regardless of the challenges in public schools, he stated that the standard of education between them and private schools was negligible.

“Perhaps 25 percent of private schools offered strong curricula. More than 20 percent of public schools also offer high quality education. Comparing between the public and private is not justified as they are both at the same level,” he explained.

The main challenge in public schools lies in the failure in providing a good education across all schools, he went on to say. Writing, reading and math levels were uneven throughout the country and facilities for special needs students are unavailable.

These are all factors that discourage parents from enrolling their students in public schools, Yarak added.

Another important problem at public schools are the curricula that have not been updated since 1997, he remarked. This issue is the responsibility of the state’s Center for Educational Research and Development, but it has fallen victim to political meddling.

The absence of a history book that it taught at all schools is evidence of this meddling, Yarak explained. Lebanese history lessons taught at schools stop at the country’s independence in 1943 and there is no mention of the 1975-90 civil war given that many of the sectarian tensions that existed then still persist to this day.

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