Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Towards a better education system in Gaza

By Hazem in Rafah

Education in Palestine is considered among the best in the Arab world. This can be seen in the the low rates of illiterate people and the commitment of Palestinians towards pursuing their education goals. It can also be seen in the number of Palestinians who work in prestigious jobs. However, the difficult situation in Gaza has its effect on the scoring rate for pupils in the schools because children have to work in the hard jobs to help their families secure desperately needed things; it is an early end for their childhood.

What does the education system look like and how can we improve it?

We can bring about changes for the better by making better use of computers in the education process - making education more interactive and bringing it closer to the realities of pupils' environment and sensibilities. We should supply schools with more computers and other tools to implement interactive lessons alongside the traditional teaching approach the pupils receive

The effects of the occupation on pupils' educational attainment

The continuous unstable situation in Gaza, with a war taking place approximately every 4 or 5 years, affects a lot of the overall education process. For example, schools face the constant threat of shelling and airstrikes, especially where schools have been directly affected. The consequences are reflected in the pupils who attend these schools, who see themselves in a war zone and as such having to concentrate on security issues, as they are living in fear of an imminent airstrike, attack or shelling. This is not just a problem in school but also on their way there and back home after school. This has a distorting impact when pupils are trying to concentrate on their studies. You might say these things happen i other conflict areas but in the case of Gaza it perhaps the longest and most permanent such situation compared to other places.

Also an environment of consistent instability creates a negative image of education in the minds of the pupils. It can lead to the attitude that it is not worthwhile because they will not be able to realize their ambitions and aspirations as they move on to higher levels of education.

This is understandable in a situation where hundreds of lives can be wiped out in a war while others see their futures wiped out and have to rebuild their lives from the bottom up again.

How we can challenge the occupation and its affects?

One way we can do this is to show the reality that the Gazan people are a highly educated cohort. This would help to counter the Israeli propaganda that tries to say we are all illiterate and unworthy people who have to be fought because we are supposedly threatening them!

So with a more effective education framework we can make Gaza a spring of energy.

More specifically, we can convince people that through education their life will be reshaped.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of the education system in Gaza?
What are the real needs we face in the education system?

There is the potential to transform the situation at all levels of the education system (Elementary, Preparatory and Secondary) by delivering a rich interactive educational experience so that education is no longer seen as just a duty or routine to be carried out.

Throughout the educational year the pupils and their families are faced with the difficulty of trying to provide expensive educational resources. For pupils it means having to take to school many of the tools and books the school cannot provide which involves carrying heavy backpacks to and from school everyday.

How we can leverage the education of the Gazans to solve their problems?

Education is rightly considered as fundamental for development and progress of any people in the world and the Gazans have the ability within their own hands to exploit their educational achievements to move their situation forward. If we can reduce the number of pupils that have stopped going to school or can make the Palestinian curriculum more interactive and relevant to people, it would be a big step forward.

The higher rate of educational achievement means there is a stronger possibility that the people of Gaza can help themselves.

We can also use the education as a tool to convert the potential the pupils have into positive and productive outcomes.

Improving the education system will contribute to the fight against the occupation , so how can we make more efficient use of the aid given to the Gazan education sector?

These days just giving aid is not enough. We should track the aid until we are sure that it has achieved the outcome we sought. Specifically regarding the aid given to the education sector in Gaza, organisations or individuals give monetary aid to Palestinian students but no successful outcome is necessarily apparent later. For example, aid may be donated for study aids, backpacks, notes and other equipment, but the pupils in receipt of this aid may not be improving their attainment or attitude towards the learning process.

Looking at if from the point of view of those being taught, even if students are given all these resources they could still be stuck with the same curriculum which doesn't relate to their needs and may still be boring for them. To overcome this it is vitally important that the educational curriculum becomes more linked to reality.

There is a proverb in Arabic that says: "Teaching children is like carving stones" So I would like to see the Schools4Change programme paying more attention to this by focusing on other important things in life, such as manners, Islam Principles, Good Conduct and how to have a true meaningful life.

These things are essential for teaching academic subjects competently because it is important to prioritise the basics and core things in life.

Given the above, I would like to suggest these points to Schools4Change to consider in its work: When implementing the projects, do it on a qualitative basis.
Focus on future needs.
Link education with the real world.
Give enough space for pupils' imagination.
Help the education authorities to make the curriculum more contemporary.
Make the education process an interactive process.
Prioritise what could be used or important in the children's life when they are growing up.


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