Poor education, unemployment caused Arab Spring, claims World Bank

World Bank representative tells regional education officials that better education standards would have prevented the Arab Spring.

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DUBAI // Poor education standards in the Mena region were the main trigger for the Arab Spring, according to a World Bank official.

Speaking this morning at a workshop in Dubai for Mena educators, Mourad Ezzine, manager of the Education Sector in the World Bank's Mena Human Development Department, said unemployment was a leading cause of the uprisings, and education should have done more to ensure people were ready for the workplace.

"Before the Tunisian revolution, there was a 5 per cent GDP growth and widespread unemployment," he said. "If the GDP had been raised by 7 per cent, there would not have been as many youths unemployed and they could have avoided tension in the labour market."

The workshop is the final in a series held by the Regional Network for Educational Policy Analysis and Research over the course of three years.

They were organised in collaboration with the World Bank and the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organziation (ISESCO).

Representatives from Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia and the UAE are attending to present evaluation results of each country's educational policies.

Mr Ezzine said a skills mismatch had emerged in the region because education had not responded quickly enough to the evolving labour market.

"There is a new demand for a different mix of skills and competencies. However, the response of school systems in the region has been either insignificant or has come too late," he said.

Mr Ezzine added that a single point improvement in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS) had been linked to a 2 per cent growth in the annual GDP per capita of the country.

The events of the Arab Spring, he said, could not be denied - including the demand from young people for better education systems.

"Government policymakers are now recognising the importance of quality public education as a foundation for economic growth, as well as the well-being of the country's citizens," he said.