Bahrain - Constitutional & Legal Foundations
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CONSTITUTIONAL & LEGAL FOUNDATIONS
The constitutional foundations of Bahraini education are based upon two principles set forth by the Ministry of Education:
- The provision of education for all school age children throughout the country.
- The improvement of the quality of education to meet the needs both of the students and that of the country's social and economic development.
Adopted on May 26, 1973, and effective since December 6, 1973, the Constitution of the State of Bahrain guarantees education as a basic right of Bahraini citizens. Article 4 of the Constitution refers to education as one of the "pillars of society guaranteed by the State." Article 5 ensures the government's oversight of the "physical, mental, and moral growth of youth." Article 6 elucidates the Islamic orientation of Bahraini education:
The State shall preserve the Arab and Islamic heritage, it shall participate in the furtherance of human civilization, and it shall strive to strengthen ties with the Muslim countries and to bring to fruition the aspirations of the Arab Nation for unity and advancement.
Finally, Article 7 sets forth the commitment to encouraging the arts and sciences, literature, and research, and to ensuring the provision of educational and cultural services to citizens. Primary education is made compulsory, and the government's plan to eliminate illiteracy is outlined. The article prescribes religious education (i.e., Islamic education) to foster an Islamic identity and pride in the Arab national heritage. The establishment of private schools is permitted "under the supervision of the State," and the inviolability of educational institutions is guaranteed.
In addition to the constitutional provisions, the government has enacted further legislation in support of education. The Education Law Project of 1989 specifically outlines the objectives underlying the regulation of education in Bahrain. These include opportunities for citizens to improve their standard of living through education; individual development along physical, mental, emotional, social, moral, and spiritual lines; the acquisition of critical thinking skills and sound judgment; and the inculcation of the Islamic faith and an Arab identity. Legislation has also addressed private educational and training institutions, training systems, student evaluation systems, equalization of GCC students in public education, school placement guidelines for new entrants, academic degree equivalence, and licensing of educational service providers. Such legislation has the general aim of promoting community-minded, socially active, educated citizens who are aware of their roles within local, regional, and international contexts.
Progress has not been easy. To meet the goal of placing more Bahraini nationals in the workforce, the government has supplemented education with laws assuring the employment of nationals. The "10,000 jobs" project and other initiatives have focused on training Bahrainis to replace foreign professionals. Even so, businesses have been reluctant to hire nationals—whose retention tend to require higher wages—and have instituted practices such as year-long internships prior to completing the hiring process. Moreover, the perception that the royal family, and not the other levels of society, is the sole beneficiary of national wealth and development, stifles motivation and productivity. Thus even in 1997 the estimated unemployment rate stood at 15 percent (Bromby 1997).
Changing political trends may help Bahrain meet its educational objectives. For much of the twentieth century and earlier, disagreements with the ruling family called for constitutional reform, and parliamentary restoration constituted treasonable acts punishable by imprisonment and exile. At the start of the twenty-first century, however, the state of Bahrain appeared to be moving toward less repressive state control. If this trend carries through, the greater freedom and involvement of Bahrainis in their system of governance will likely enable more significant progress toward Bahrain's educational goals.