The World Bank warns of a decline in education in Iraq
15/6/2021 15:19:00[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
No one disagrees about the importance of a discreet and future education policy for any country at the school and university levels, given the critical role of education in economic development. Its importance lies not only in the quantitative expansion of educational opportunities, but also in the qualitative improvement of education that is transmitted to the labor force that holds the key to economic development.
In light of the importance of this subject, the 140-page recent World Bank report on the economic and development situation in Iraq included an investigative and analytical chapter, and exceptional figures on education, which I will try to present in a summary form.
The report contains shocking information, and on the basis of it the World Bank warns of a crisis facing Iraq related to human capital, fueled by the education crisis, as it asserts that a child born in Iraq today will reach, on average, only 41 percent of his potential productivity when he grows up, the Iraqi child will not be expected to achieve Just over 4 years of learning when he reaches the age of 18. Thus, Iraq has one of the lowest human capital indicators in the region. The report attributes the reasons for low levels of human capital to long years of bloody conflict, the absence of reforms, limited opportunities for youth, social unrest, and administrative corruption.
The results of the report are summarized as follows:
1) Iraq spends 10% less of its general budget on education (primary and higher) compared to the average for the Middle East and North Africa region. Teacher and staff salaries represent a relatively high share of public education spending (93 percent) while only 1% of Iraq's investment budget is allocated to the education sector.
2) The figures show a significant lack of enrollment rates in pre-primary and secondary schools, where only 11% of children at the age of 5 enroll. In secondary education, enrollment rates range between 58 and 33 percent in secondary and lower secondary education, respectively.
3) Particularly low rates of investment budget implementation severely affect the performance of the education system along with the performance of the rest of the public sector.
4) Public funding allocations to the vocational education sector witnessed a sharp decline in student enrollment, accompanied by a significant decrease in the number of schools and teachers.
5) The lack of educational infrastructure greatly affects the ability to provide high-quality educational services, as the average number of students per school is approximately 400 students, with a number of schools participating in the same buildings and facilities.
6) Although Iraq generally did not participate in student performance assessment competitions, one of the few measures of student learning outcomes, the 2012 Early Years Reading Assessment, showed that the quality of education, as measured by student learning, is much lower than in neighboring countries.
7) Iraq has an estimated 2.1 million children between the ages of 6 and 17 out of school, nearly half of whom are in the secondary school age group. Despite improvements in recent years, the relatively low educational participation rates in Iraq mean that more than two million children and adolescents remain out of school.
8) Outdated curricula, limited professional development for teachers, insufficient support for school counselors and learning programmes, and limited programs for youth at risk have all negatively affected education. For example, while teaching time in Iraq is already short by international standards, in 2018, 25 percent of students reported that they were unable to attend a lesson due to the absence of a teacher, or because the school had closed over the past year.
9) The conflict created by ISIS in Iraq has led to a humanitarian crisis marked by the internal displacement of 3.2 million Iraqis and the destruction of infrastructure and services in areas previously occupied by ISIS. In 16 cities within the seven governorates directly affected, infrastructure was damaged in 62 percent of schools and 18 percent of schools were completely destroyed.
10) The report estimates the reconstruction needs at 4.9 trillion Iraqi dinars, and this amount represents infrastructure damage, while recovery needs, such as restoring learning and education services, represent 490 billion Iraqi dinars for the development of professional education for teachers, educational materials and the out-of-school youth rehabilitation program.
11) The Ministry of Education estimates that there is a shortage of infrastructure for more than 10,000 school buildings.
12) The World Bank estimates that the total government spending on education in Iraq (education and higher education - excluding the Kurdistan Region) in 2019 amounted to 10.8 trillion Iraqi dinars. This represents a slight increase from 10.0 trillion in 2018, but a decrease from about 11.6 trillion in 2013. Government spending in Iraq (9.7 percent) is well below the MENA regional average of 14.0 percent.
13) The Ministry of Education did not spend any amount of the investment budget in 2017 and 2018 and spent less than 24 billion Iraqi dinars in 2019, which represents only 9 percent of the actual investment budget for the education sector. The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research spent less than 4 percent of the actual investment budget for higher education in 2018 and 2019.
14) To meet the current challenges and future aspirations of the education sector in Iraq, the report proposes the following measures to ensure adequacy of spending on public education: a) Prioritize investments in education in the medium term among the many competing priorities over scarce budget resources during the COVID-19 recovery phase. b) Expand the share of spending, excluding salaries, in the education budget. c) Allocate additional public resources to the regions and groups most in need.
15) Differences in school enrollment rates across governorates are associated with poverty, particularly at the secondary level. While primary school enrollment rates are generally high across Iraq, participation in secondary education declines as poverty rates increase in the governorate (an average of one percentage point per percentage point increase in multidimensional poverty).
16) The survey sample shows that there is no female student from outside the higher socio-economic stratum registered in graduate studies. University education appears to be a luxury, as only 23 percent of female students enrolled in the university appear to belong to families in the poor socioeconomic bracket.
17) Corruption continues to negatively affect the delivery of public services in Iraq across many sectors, including education. According to the Institute for Management and Civil Society Studies, 47 percent of respondents in Iraq cited corruption as their main concern. Appointments and salary corruption in the form of “ghost employees” hamper efficiency and credibility. According to the World Bank, nepotism stimulates corrupt behavior in development projects. For example, the costs of development projects are often so exaggerated that leaders and their associates can benefit from them. In education, this means that already low levels of public investment allocations to the sector may not be used effectively to address the glaring lack of infrastructure in the education system.
18) The World Bank report identified the requirements and priorities for education reform as follows:
A- Adequacy of spending on education. Objective: To increase the share of education in the government budget by boosting investment spending and other than the salaries of teachers and staff.
B - Equality in spending on education. Objective: To improve educational outcomes for children from less affluent families and regions.
C- Efficiency of spending on education. Objective: To enhance the value for money investment in education by improving the performance of the sector within the constraints of available resources.
D- Institutional challenges and public financial management in education. Objective: To improve the effectiveness of education sector management through simplified institutional arrangements that are more conducive to achieving results.
The authors of the report presented a large number of procedural proposals within each of the four priorities and within a short, medium and long-term time frame. We suggest that officials in the Ministries of Education and Higher Education and the mass of teachers and educators review them, and on the link: