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Despite the lack of enough public-funded high schools and more than 15 years of civil war in Lebanon, the literacy rate remains one of the highest in the Middle East region. In a country that has been shattered and almost destroyed by a prolonged civil war, extended family solidarity has become crucial in supporting individual family members and providing funds for the education of the young. Whether working in the country or traveling abroad for better work conditions and income, those extended family members kept sending money to help those who stayed behind. Strong family ties still exist in Lebanon and they are very important to many. Dealing with the peace of the 1990s has been as tough and draining for many Lebanese as had been surviving the fighting of the 1970s and 1980s. Restoring order to thousands of Lebanon's institutions, especially its schools, has been an uphill battle. Because of a high inflation rate, the devaluation of the Lebanese pound, an electric power shortage, a decreased water supply and increased pollution, the destruction of regular phone lines and increasing reliance on cellular phones, divisions between the rich and poor have widened and health as well as educational standards have become mainly restricted to those who can afford them.

The new Lebanese educational system is promising. It integrates, in the new structure, the diversity and equilibrium among the fields of study so that every student can see the multiple horizons open in the domains of general or professional education, as well as at the nonformal level. This fact assures the same chances of learning for all (independent of their age and sociocultural status) the passage from one profession to another without any major problems, the development of a permanent recycling system in the heart of a same profession, and the increase of possibilities for promotion.

It is complementary and balanced because it consolidates the relations among the diverse cycles and domains of learning from the maternal level all the way to the threshold of the university level. It also coordinates with the needs of the Lebanese and Arab labor markets in all of the domains (economic, development, and public services). In addition, it collaborates financially and materially among the establishments of production and scholastic institutions. Furthermore, it assures more diversification starting at the secondary cycle of instruction, which would contribute to the creation of an equilibrium between general and higher education as well as with the labor market.

The new system is flexible, which gives the students a possibility to change their field of study at a minimum cost. It also takes into account the problems of failure, getting behind, and dropping out of school along with reducing their demoralizing effect on the students as well as on their parents. In addition, this new system provides harmony with the majority of the educational systems, which are applied in the developed nations. Furthermore, it introduces progressive methods leading to pedagogical and educational innovation that can be found in a world of perpetual transformation. It also promotes obligatory education till the age of 15, which does not contradict the code of labor for employing children.

This system has become increasingly less centralized because of the large number of the private schools, which have more freedom to teach what they want as long as they do not contradict the laws of the land and can meet the minimum requirements set by the three ministries of education. These private schools have mostly foreign connections and, thus, have exposed the Lebanese to foreign languages and various foreign studies and cultures.

In addition, the Lebanese educational system, even before its reconstruction, has produced one of the highest literacy rates in the Middle East (75 to 88 percent). Enrollment rates at various levels have been considered the highest in the region (with the exception of the civil war period).

As in many other countries, the new Lebanese educational system has its own problems, which could sometimes lead to negative outcomes on the students and the Lebanese community as well. The Lebanese educational system is modeled after the English-American and French systems and, hence, does not adequately prepare students to face the various intellectual, psychological, and societal challenges of the Lebanese society, which is at a crossroads of cultures. Foreign schools affiliated with different cultures have participated in dividing the loyalties of the Lebanese youth and helped to fuel the civil war in the country.

There is an emphasis on religion and languages. Religion runs very deep in Lebanon, as is the case in most of the Middle East nations. This emphasis has led to animosities instead of understanding and appreciating religious diversity. By the same token, emphasis on foreign languages led Lebanese to mix their Arabic with French or English while speaking. This has created major gaps between the rich and poor (the more educated and less educated) as well as between people who are pro-eastern cultures and those who are prowestern cultures.

The classroom remains mostly teacher-oriented, with little attention devoted to individual students to learn at their own pace and according to their own needs. However, there is a great hope that the implementation of the new system is going to slowly change the methods of instruction toward a more cooperative style of learning through in-class problem solving and structured learning activities.

Official public examinations are difficult and cause much stress to students and their families. These exams rely heavily on memorization rather than comprehension of concepts and can lead to a high rate of failure or dropouts. This fact has led many school teachers to waste much time explaining and teaching the content of previous examinations so students may learn how to answer them correctly.

The poorly equipped public schools, along with lack of adequate facilities for many of them coupled with high tuition fees in private schools have been problematic throughout the years. Therefore, public schools are crowded, have high teacher-student ratios, and admission to private schools has become virtually impossible for many students (especially not so well-to-do families). The end result is that wealthy students have a better chance of passing official examinations and pursuing their education than poor students.

The Lebanese economy has been suffering for a long period of time because of the civil war and the currency devaluation. Thus, it cannot absorb a large number of graduates who face unemployment and seek it outside the country. There are few vocational and technical schools in Lebanon, especially in the public sector, and most of these are concentrated in the capital and a very small number of big cities. This has made it difficult for poor students to continue their education beyond the mandatory period.

Although education is mandatory until ages 12 through 15, it is not implemented in all areas of the country because the government lacks adequate facilities and the proper equipment for them in some of those areas. Also, considerable effort, money, and time have been invested after the civil war to modernize education in Lebanon. The new educational system, which is currently implemented, has been the fruit of reconstructing the old educational system and making it comparable to the most modern systems around the world.

In addition to the new educational system, the Lebanese government may take some initial steps to help the less fortunate people by implementing compulsory education in rural regions and by using new technology to providing distance learning to remote areas in the nation, which would alleviate the burden of living in big cities or leaving the rural areas for the sake of studying. Furthermore, Lebanon needs to build more adequate facilities and equip them with the most up-to-date technology for purposes of teaching. The government needs to also build and open more public vocational and technical schools so that the country could admit more students who do not want to pursue their higher education.

Moreover, Lebanese curricula should be unified, become less theoretical and more practical so as to address the needs of the students. More importantly, evaluation of students' work should not be based solely on external official examinations at the end of each level, but on intermittent internal evaluations throughout each year so as to lessen the stress on teachers, students, and their parents and to minimize the number of failures and dropouts.

Finally, students should be the center of attention rather than teachers in the classroom. Therefore, more emphasis should be placed on cooperative and distance learning as well as other new methods of instruction rather than lecturing and memorizing contents for the purpose of passing official tests.


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—Mahboub E. Hashem

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Education - Free Encyclopedia Search EngineGlobal Education ReferenceLebanon - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education