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Education, Innovation, Employability

Status: Active
  • Countries Targeted

    Countries of the southern Mediterranean. 



    AFD; CMI; EIB; Islamic Development Bank (IsDB); Union for the Mediterranean (UfM); and the World Bank.


    Regional Context

    The quality of education remains the number one challenge to building inclusive Arab societies that are cohesive and stable. The pattern is the same across all Arab countries: mass education has failed to equip young people with adequate ability to take action and make decisions, and has left too many young people with few opportunities for economic inclusion.


    Moreover, mass tertiary education has left the issue of vocational training unaddressed, meaning that a large number of unskilled youth is unable to meet labor market demand for technical skills. Indeed, the region is still facing high unemployment, especially among youth aged 15-24, which has increased overall poverty and vulnerability levels.


    There is a pressing need to improve the efficiency of active labor market programs and social safety nets, as well as to foster innovation and entrepreneurship to increase employment and social integration and decrease poverty and vulnerability levels. The crucial challenge is to promote an innovative transition from “Education for All” to “Learning and Skills Training for All.”



    The work program is articulated around five areas whose objectives are:


    • Education for Competitiveness (E4C) ­– Promote a new vision and a regional agenda for education in the MENA region – one that promotes critical thinking, creativity and innovation in order to allow the region to achieve inclusive growth, social stability and global competitiveness.
    • Employment and Social Protection – Foster employability and social integration through knowledge sharing and building the capacity of government officials in MENA in the areas of education and training, public employment services, active labor market programs – including entrepreneurship, and social safety nets.
    • Tertiary Education – Support governance and accountability reforms to bridge the gap between supply and demand of skills.
    • Innovation for Value and Employment Creation – Support innovation to bolster the value added in industry, leading to job creation and social integration.
    • Initiative for Youth Employment through Vocational Training in the Maghreb Countries – Take advantage of North-South synergies to improve quality of vocational training.


    Selected Outcomes

    Education for Competitiveness:

    • Consensus reached on 5 key educational targets to improve quality education in MENA: Consultations were held with multiple stakeholders in MENA countries and a consensus was reached on 5 core interventions, namely: Expanding Early Childhood Development, Strengthening Early Grade Literacy and Numeracy, Promoting Information for Accountability, Enhancing Career Guidance and Opportunities, and Boosting 21st Century Skills and Values. The World Bank Group and the Islamic Development Bank Group, leading this initiative, have established partnerships with the EIB, the European Training Foundation (ETF), AFD, the International Finance Cooperation (IFC), the International Institute for Education Planning (IIEP), the Mediterranean Universities Union (UNIMED) and USAID to promote a regional agenda and enhance education and training systems. The aim is improved socioeconomic outcomes, including: higher productivity, growth, social cohesion, and peace and stability.


    Employment and Social Protection:

    • Concrete recommendations to address the factors affecting women’s employment in Turkey: Turkey has the lowest female labor force participation rate of Organisation among Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. Many factors affect women’s participation in the labor market, such as education, marital status, opportunity cost, social norms, cultural barriers and gender segregation. The roundtable on Women’s access to and retention in decent work and child care in Turkey (Istanbul, Turkey, March 15, 2016), organized by the AFD, yielded concrete recommendations, dealing, among other issues, with: transforming gender relations at home and at work; raising women’s awareness about women’s rights; and increasing public investment in social care services.
    • Raising awareness about monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of employment and technical and vocational training programs: In response to the deterioration of labor market outcomes in MENA, many governments in the region have recently revamped, scaled-up and/or designed new employment and technical and vocational training programs. However, the impact of these interventions remains largely unknown due to weak and/or inexistent M&E systems, hindering effective and efficient policymaking in this area. The workshop on M&E of employment and technical and vocational Programs, held in Rabat from January 25-27 and attended by almost 100 government officials from eight countries in the region, raised awareness on the importance of M&E by providing a platform to discuss the rationale and use of M&E to inform decision-making. The event increased the capacity of participants by providing them an overview of different M&E tools and approaches that they can apply in ongoing or planned initiatives and reforms, and provided a forum for South-South knowledge exchange among participating countries.
    • Management of the MENA Community of Practice (CoP) on Active Labor Market Programs (ALMPs) and Social Safety Nets (SSNs): In response to the need for increased knowledge sharing and capacity building on ALMPs and SSNs expressed by government officials from throughout the region, a MENA CoP on ALMPs and SSN was created and launched in 2013 by the World Bank’s Social Protection and Labor (SP&L) Team. The CoP has organized several virtual events, face-to-face workshops and study tours that have enabled hundreds of government officials from across Ministries in the region to share knowledge and build their capacity on good practices related to ALMPs and SSNs. The CoP, currently managed by CMI with technical support from the MENA SP&L team, now has an enlarged database of members that has enabled it to improve its reach and impact. 


    Tertiary Education:

    • Improved Governance in tertiary education in the MENA Region: The second round of the University Governance Screening Card (UGSC), which was launched in 2016, had a 40% increase in the participation of tertiary education institutions in the region compared to the first round, which was launched in 2012. This second version of the UGSC, which is currently being administered in Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco, Palestinian Territories, and Tunisia, has been developed to benchmark governance practices within institutions of tertiary education in the MENA region with global trends and practices, as well as those within the region. The tool allows for a better understanding of the degree of alignment of institutions’ governance practices with their institutional goals as well as with international trends, while monitoring their progress over time. The preliminary findings of the second version of the UGSC show significant developments in tertiary education governance practices in comparison to the previous version, particularly in the areas of participation of stakeholders in decision-making, evidence-informed management, and formal mission- and goal-setting and monitoring. Yet, not much progress has been achieved under “accountability,” which points to the need for increased attention to this policy area.


    • Decision to move forward towards internationalization, financial sustainability and widening regional participation: The 5th International MENA Tertiary Education Conference, “Paradigm Shifts in Tertiary Education: Improved Governance and Quality for Competitiveness and Employability,” gathered about 160 participants including representatives from the Tertiary Education Institutions Network in the MENA region, government officials, quality assurance agencies as well as regional, European, and international experts. This discussion mainly focused on governance in tertiary education institutions, financial sustainability and internationalization. Also discussed were: strategizing to attract the participation of institutional representatives from MENA countries not yet participating in the project, as well as those from other regions, especially, Asia, Africa and Latin America. Collaboration with countries such as Afghanistan has already been initiated, with the participation of a delegation to the international event.


    Innovation for Value and Employment Creation:

    • Developing Key Performance Indicators for Science and Technology Parks: A workshop was organized in Cairo, Egypt (10-12 November 2015) for Science and Technology Park managers with the Arab League Education, Culture and Science Organization (ALECSO) and the Egyptian Academy of Scientific Research and Technology (ASRT). The workshop was attended by 30 specialists from the region and led to the publication of a list of 25 indicators to measure the output and impact of Science and Technology Parks.


    • Design of the Innovation Barometer for MENA Countries: Partners of the program agreed upon a set of about 30 indicators at the last Innovation Scoreboard Meeting for the MENA region (Rabat, Morocco, May 16-17, 2016). The Innovation Barometer for the MENA countries is designed to capture all data for the public and private sectors in the same datasheet and aims at enabling MENA countries to compare themselves. The work on the Innovation Barometer was presented at the Arab Knowledge Summit (7-10 December 2015). The 2015 conference theme was ‘The Way to Innovation’ and gathered 3,000 people from across the MENA region.


    Initiative for Youth Employment through Vocational Training in the Maghreb Countries:

    • Building a bottom-up approach for vocational training through consultations with the Maghreb countries: Consultations with beneficiary countries (Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia) led to creation of a program to enhance employability through vocational training and skills enhancement based on peer-to-peer exchanges between training centers and institutions, carried out in a bottom-up approach. Beneficiary countries identified priority areas of intervention thanks to the contribution of the Institut de la Méditerranée. These priority areas were presented and discussed by partners in Marseille in June 2016.
    • Shifting from the preparatory to the operational phase: Under the leadership of the Luxembourg Presidency of the European Union and the Union for the Mediterranean, and following four meetings with partners (Marseille September 2015 and June 2016 and Barcelona October 2015 and July 2016), the “Initiative for youth employment through vocational training in the Maghreb countries” was launched and the plan for its operation and governance were adopted. The CMI prepared a procedures guide for the launch of the operational phase.