Education in Palestine

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Introduction and study background:


The main resources for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are not oil and gas fields, nor coffee crops. Occupation, coupled with the factor of lacking natural resources as a fait accompli, make the Palestinian people the key resource of Palestine and the key to development.

Throughout their long history, Palestinians have relied on the human resources, both the human mind and skills, to sustain their survival and development as a nation. In that context, education has been always considered by Palestinians as the one prerequisite, not only for nation building but also to engage to the prolonged development process. Palestinian human capital and their willingness to develop their minds, their capabilities, their skills and motivation to redound to the development of their country is the only Palestinian asset in the WBGS.

Based on its quality and quantity, Education is an engine of growth and key to development in every society. It implies how people are educated and motivated and enabled to put into practice the skills they have learnt contributing to the development of their nation. Yet the Palestinian educational system has extremely alarming limitations. In this technological era, when global

sense, quality education is understood as a potential antidote to initiating and achieving development in Palestine as it focuses on equipping students with knowledge and skills for lifelong learning as a vehicle for achieving sustainable development.

international education has been the global push for Universal Primary Education [UPE], as is reflected in the Millennium Development Goals [MDGs] and the Education for All targets [EFA]. The EFA movement has come up since the 1990s and its strive for universal access to education gained momentum at global conferences on in Jomtien [1990] and Dakar [2000] (McCowan 2011). Within this movement the international community has committed itself to have all children attending fee-free primary schooling by 2015 (Robeyns 2006). Education is seen as a human right which has enabled a focus on access to school: every child has the right to Free Primary Education [FPE], as formulated in the second MDG. In addition to the MDGs, the EFA targets do not only strive for universal access to basic education but universal access to quality education and learning.

In line with global movements, the MOE has followed through on a policy of UPE since 1997. The EDSP stipulates that education is a fundamental right for every Palestinian citizen. It is essential for the country to provide quality and relevant education to all its citizens, irrespective of cultural, gender, regional or social differences. The execution of UPE had positive outcomes, especially with respect to enrolment and literacy rates, which reached 88.5% and 99.1% respectively.

These figures though are not adequate indicators to determine the quality of education, and this in turn raises concerns of the quality of education system in Palestine. Moreover, racing towards universalization of access has been detrimental to quality standards (Barrett 2011). In other words, there is a trade-off between increasing access to education and the quality of education (IOB 2008). Indicators of educational performance show that Palestine has done remarkably well on education access-related targets since the introduction of UPE in 1997. Whilst Palestine advances towards the goal of EFA, this initial success of high enrolment places greater emphasis on improving the quality of education (Acham et al. 2012). In addition, numerous studies conclude that quality of educational systems functioning in unstable countries is exposed to more pressures and there are more barriers to be overcome to achieve a good quality of education (Appleton 2001; Altinyelken 2010; Atchoarena and Gasperini 2003; Grogan 2009; Heneveld 2007).


The Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MOEHE) was first established and took responsibility of the education system in the West Bank and Gaza in 1994 after the Oslo Accords (MOEHE 2014). At that time, the system of education, the curriculum, teacher qualifications, and school facilities were in need of reform and updating. In 1996, the MOEHE was divided into two separate ministries: the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education, and these two ministries were merged again to become the MOEHE in 2002 (Nicolai 2007). The MOEHE was responsible for the education sector as whole from pre-primary to higher education and for recruiting and training teachers as well. This ministry also worked as the liaison on training issues with the education directorates (Mustafa and Bisharat 2008). The MOEHE is also in charge of managing governmental educational institutions and supervising private educational institutions and institutions run by UNRWA. In 2013, the MOEHE was divided again into two separate ministries: the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education.

The education system in the Palestinian National Authority is composed of four stages:

  • Preschool: This consists of 1 to 2 years of schooling (ages 4–5), monitored by the ministry through supervisors in the field. Although most kindergarten schools are run by the private sector, the ministry provides technical and educational supervision, teacher training and licensing, and some funding.
  • Basic education: This stage is compulsory for all children and consists of 10 years of schooling, grades 1 to 10, for ages 6–16. It consists of two stages, preparation stage and empowerment stage.
  • Secondary education: This consists of 2 years of schooling, grades 11 and 12, for ages 17–18. This stage is divided into academic, technical, and vocational domains. The academic domain includes literary (humanities) and scientific streams, while the technical and vocational domains consist of subjects in these domains. Students can elect to enter any one of these domains, but their right to entry is based on successful completion of grade 10 and results of their assessments.

The Palestinian National Authority operates a centralized education system in regard to the curriculum, textbooks, instructions, and regulations. The administrative structure of the general education is composed of 22 fields’ directorates (districts offices) of education, including 16 in the West Bank and 6 in Gaza (Mullis et al, 2008). Education directorates supervise the administrative and academic performance of schools, with full authority to address issues related to these areas. The Ministry is responsible for recruiting and training teachers and is the liaison on training issues with the education directorates. The vision for education adopted by the Ministry of Education within the framework of the Education Development Strategic Plan 2008-2012 gave a long-term direction for education developmental work including policy formulation and educational strategic planning. It was built on four core pillars of the MoEHE Development Strategic Plan 2008-12 (MOEHE, 2008):

  1. Enrolment and Access: the first aim was to increase the access of school-aged children in addition to students of all education levels and improve the education system ability to retain them.
  2. Quality of education: the second aim was to improve the quality of teaching and learning process as a whole.
  3. Management: this was the third aim that targeted the development of the capacity for planning and management in addition to improving the financial and management systems in use.
  4. Relevance and Linkage constituted the final aim of this strategic plan. It emphasized the need for relevance and linkage between the system of education and the needs of the market and society.