In the first article of this series, I explored the Lebanese educational system, discussing its outward strengths and successes. Yet, despite Lebanon’s extremely high literacy rates (93.9%), the fact remains that this is nothing but a glittering façade distracting us from an unsettling truth: the Lebanese educational system is severely flawed and outdated, no longer catering to the needs of the students and the market that will be receiving them, as is clearly represented by Lebanon’s youth unemployment rate (17.87 in 2018). Students graduate with the hopes of finding suitable and decent work, but these dreams are actually shattered as they apply for job after job with seemingly no success. The main factor undermining their efforts lies, in fact, in their education: Lebanon’s educational system, outdated and inflexible as it is, has not been providing them with the core life skills, non-formal education, and capacity-building that would foster their development as individuals and give them a competitive advantage in the market.
The Lebanese educational system employs curriculums and modules that have not been changed or updated since 1998 at the very least. The courses taught encompass the traditional subjects (sciences, languages, humanities…) with some schools occasionally offering art or other creative courses. The material is taught, however, by inculcation: students are expected to memorize information and score well when tested, regardless of actual comprehension. Moreover, the information given is more often than not useless in the students’ day-to-day lives and careers. For example, the same history lessons have been taught in schools since the 90s, lessons that concern time periods that no longer hold any consequence over the Lebanese society, politics, reality, economy, …etc. These classes fail to mention the Lebanese Civil War, for instance, even though this time period played a significant role in shaping the Lebanon of today.
Another flagrant flaw that can be seen in the Lebanese educational system is the lack of core life skills taught. The curriculum falls short of including subjects and skills that develop the students’ minds and personalities, and help them navigate the world they live in. The material taught is strictly academic, and offers little benefit to a student’s character formation. All potential for personal growth is squashed, and necessary life skills such as communication, problem solving, decision making, leadership, goal setting, and presentation, to name a few, are often overlooked. The system focuses more on handing out unified, academic knowledge, disregarding the particularities of every personal case. Individual talents, interests and skills are thus rarely developed within the context of the educational system and formal education.
It therefore comes as no surprise that this system also does not offer vocational training. Students who wish to receive such training must seek it outside their schools and educational system, having to choose between either learning a trade, or receiving a formal education, but never both. The Lebanese system does not arm its students with all the skills they would need to decide for themselves and make a career of their own. All students are usually led to pursuing the same careers, with little to no room for diversity and unconventional jobs.
While on the topic of training and preparation for future careers, it is worth noting that the Lebanese system does little to offer its students orientation and counseling to guide them in their decision-making process. Students are usually uninformed on the various career options and their specifics, and stumble blindly towards the career that seems the most suitable for them. Most go on to regret their choices later on, eventually working outside their field. One practice that should be implemented in schools is shadowing, an informal way for someone to learn by observation what it is like to perform a particular job at a workplace.
The Lebanese educational system is also for the most part formal, lacking non-formal education. Informal and non-formal learning can empower youth in important areas, such as social inclusion, anti-discrimination and active citizenship, as well as contribute to their personal growth. The range of initiatives and programs that fall under non-formal education (NFE) are diverse: they include literacy and basic education for adults and young people, political and trade union education, and programs for school drop outs, among others. The Lebanese system in itself offers little NFE, and most types of non-formal education are usually very exclusive, targeting specific groups such as refugees and minorities, which makes it inaccessible to a large percentage of the Lebanese. Moreover, the unavailability of sustainable and free non-formal education leads children and adolescents to drop out of formal schools to seek employment, with little chance of ever completing their educations.
On the surface, all seems well: a large percentage of the Lebanese population has received some form of post-secondary education, with the number of people holding degrees of varying levels increasing. However, often brushed under the carpet are vital issues such as the student debt that is skyrocketing, the underprivileged, illiterate groups that receive no help from the government, and the ongoing brain drain that continues to claim the Lebanese youth. The situation is in dire need of fixing, but that will probably have to wait for another day. Lebanon’s leaders and politicians have more important problems to tend to, namely who gets the biggest slice of the cake. For the time being, they’ve conveniently decided to turn a blind eye to the failures of this country’s educational system, because what matters is that literacy rates are high, which means that on the surface, all seems well, and they get to avoid accountability for one more day.
About the author: Lara Makhoul is a translator. She graduated with honors with a BA in Translation from the Lebanese University in 2018. She is currently an MA student in Research and Translation Studies. She occupies the position of Local Programs Officer at Crossing Borders Lebanon CBL, where she is charged with scouting potential opportunities that would help youth build a brighter future. She also works at The Language Platform, a Lebanese company that provides translation and language services.
– Center for Educational Research and Development- Lebanese Government, Content Details,
– Lebanon Literacy, Index Mundi, 2015
– Lebanon: Youth unemployment,The Global Economy
Lebanon Literacy, Index Mundi, 2015
Lebanon: Youth unemployment,The Global Economy
Content Details, Center for Educational Research and Development- Lebanese Government