Isobel Coleman

Democracy in Development

Coleman maps the intersections between political reform, economic growth, and U.S. policy in the developing world.

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Showing posts for "Education"

Beating Boko Haram

by Isobel Coleman
A woman takes part in a protest for the release of the abducted secondary school girls in Abuja, Nigeria, May 12, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde). A woman takes part in a protest for the release of the abducted secondary school girls in Abuja, Nigeria, May 12, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde).

Earlier today, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau offered to release more than 200 kidnapped school girls in exchange for prisoners. In the video, approximately one hundred girls are seen wearing hijabs and reciting verses from the Quran. Most of the girls are believed to be Christian, but Shekau explains they have been converted to Islam. Meanwhile, the international effort to rescue the girls is ramping up. The United States, the United Kingdom, China, France, and Israel are helping the Nigerian government strategize about how to find the girls and fight the radical Islamic group. Read more »

Tackling Unemployment in Egypt through Apprenticeship

by Isobel Coleman
Workers construct framework for advertising boards in downtown Cairo, Egypt, June 2013 (Courtesy Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh). Workers construct framework for advertising boards in downtown Cairo, Egypt, June 2013 (Courtesy Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh).

Several articles in Egypt’s new constitution make an effort to address what is arguably one of the most critical long-term challenges facing the country: high levels of unemployment -particularly youth unemployment.  Not only does the new constitution mandate increased spending on education and research and development, it also specifies that the government must expand technical and vocational training “in keeping with the needs of the labor market.” Read more »

Education and Egypt’s New Constitution

by Isobel Coleman
An Egyptian soldier opens a box of ballots before officials count them after polls closed during the final stage of a referendum on Egypt's new constitution in Cairo, Egypt, January 15, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany). An Egyptian soldier opens a box of ballots before officials count them after polls closed during the final stage of a referendum on Egypt's new constitution in Cairo, Egypt, January 15, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany).

Last week, Egyptians approved a new constitution with a Mubarak-like 98 percent yes-vote in a referendum.  Many observers have been critical of the constitution, noting that it gives unprecedented powers to the military and fails to protect important human rights. Others, however, see it as cause for celebration, citing the document’s provisions on gender equality, religious freedom, and secularism as important steps forward.  A relatively low voter turnout of less than 40 percent combined with ongoing deep divisions in society over several constitutional clauses make it unclear how effectively the new constitution will be implemented or how long it will last.  But one element of the constitution should have the strong backing of all Egyptians – the little-noticed new provisions on education. Read more »

Youth Unemployment in the Middle East and North Africa

by Isobel Coleman
Graph by author. Data are from ILO's Global Employment Trends for Youth 2013 report. Regional data are from ILO's 2012 preliminary estimates; U.S. and E.U. data are from the OECD's second quarter 2012 data. Graph by author. Data are from ILO's Global Employment Trends for Youth 2013 report. Regional data are from ILO's 2012 preliminary estimates; U.S. and E.U. data are from the OECD's second quarter 2012 data.

As the graph above makes painfully clear, the Middle East and North Africa face significant challenges when it comes to youth unemployment. A World Economic Forum report from 2012 notes, “Unemployment in the MENA region is the highest in the world…and largely a youth phenomenon.” Read more »

Challenges for Pakistan’s Prime Minister

by Isobel Coleman
Nawaz Sharif, incoming prime minister and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) political party, speaks to his party members, who were voted to political posts in the general election, during a function in Lahore on May 20, 2013 (Mohsin Raza/Courtesy Reuters). Nawaz Sharif, incoming prime minister and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) political party, speaks to his party members, who were voted to political posts in the general election, during a function in Lahore on May 20, 2013 (Mohsin Raza/Courtesy Reuters).

A few years ago on a flight from London to Karachi I sat next to one of Pakistan’s leading textile manufacturers who spent several hours discussing the sorry state of his business. The fact that his European clients will no longer visit the country because they view it as too dangerous was not even his biggest problem. His real issue is the constant blackouts his factories face due to a lack of reliable energy. “We can’t compete with the likes of Bangladesh and Vietnam,” he bemoaned. This is the tough economic reality that Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s newly elected prime minister, inherits. Read more »

Literacy in the Middle East and North Africa

by Isobel Coleman
Graph by author. Data source: World Bank. 2010 data for Yemen, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain. 2009 data for Morocco. 2008 data for Tunisia and Iran. 2007 data for Lebanon. Graph by author. Data source: World Bank. 2010 data for Yemen, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain. 2009 data for Morocco. 2008 data for Tunisia. 2007 data for Lebanon.

While the Arab revolutions were underpinned by a demand for greater political freedom, economic frustrations–particularly among the region’s large youth population–were also a factor. Millions of young people with university degrees languish for years unemployed, with no hope of getting a job that meets their expectations. Millions more are not completing sufficient years of school to master basic literacy and numeracy skills. As the 2002 Arab Human Development Report noted, adult literacy in the Arab world is shamefully low–and lower than the average in developing countries. Read more »

Guest Post: Women in the Workforce in the Arab World

by Guest Blogger for Isobel Coleman
Students study in the laboratory at the Faculty of Science at the University of Misrata December 19, 2011 (Esam al-Fetori/Courtesy Reuters). Students study in the laboratory at the Faculty of Science at the University of Misrata December 19, 2011 (Esam al-Fetori/Courtesy Reuters).

Women in the Middle East stand to play a vital role in the region’s economic and political future, if given the opportunity. This week at the Council on Foreign Relations, the World Bank’s senior adviser to the chief economist for the Middle East and North Africa, Nadereh Chamlou, spoke about women’s economic empowerment in the Arab world. Today, my colleague Reza Aslan–author of books including No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam and adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations—writes about Chamlou’s remarks and the challenges to women’s participation in the workforce. Read more »

The Chicken and Egg of Skills and Jobs in the Arab World

by Isobel Coleman
Unemployed Tunisian graduate Salah al Massowiri holds up his diploma at their home in Cite El Boua, in the central province of Sidi Bouzid on May 26, 2012 (Anis Mili/Courtesy Reuters). Unemployed Tunisian graduate Salah al Massowiri holds up his diploma at their home in Cite El Boua, in the central province of Sidi Bouzid on May 26, 2012 (Anis Mili/Courtesy Reuters).

A new report from the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP)—Rethinking Economic Growth: Towards Productive and Inclusive Arab Societies—examines employment issues, the relative lack of dynamic private sectors, broken social contracts, and more in the Arab world. Read more »

Malala Yousafzai and Girls’ Education in Pakistan

by Isobel Coleman
Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai (C) waves with nurses as she is discharged from The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham in this handout photograph released on January 4, 2013 (Courtesy Reuters). Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai (C) waves with nurses as she is discharged from The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham in this handout photograph released on January 4, 2013 (Courtesy Reuters).

Yesterday, people around the world watched in admiration and awe a clip from an interview with Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for girls’ education. “I want every girl, every child to be educated,” she said bravely in comments given before she had surgery at a hospital in England–apparently, she is now recovering well–and discussed the new Malala Fund to do just that. The fund’s inaugural grant will help girls from the Swat Valley, where Malala is from, receive an education instead of entering the workforce prematurely. Read more »

Bolstering Education and Science in the Arab World

by Isobel Coleman
Secondary students sit for an exam in a government school in Riyadh on June 15, 2008 (Fahad Shadeed/Courtesy Reuters). Secondary students sit for an exam in a government school in Riyadh on June 15, 2008 (Fahad Shadeed/Courtesy Reuters).

A decade ago, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) shone a spotlight on the sorry state of education in the Arab world with its inaugural Arab Human Development Report in 2002, and its 2003 follow-on report, “Building a Knowledge Society.” The reports’ statistics still shock: in one year, Spain translates the same number of books (around 10,000) as the entire Arab world has translated since the ninth century; on a per capita basis, the Arab world produces only about 2 percent of the scientific papers that industrialized countries do; between 1980 and 2000, all Arab countries together registered only 370 patents in the U.S., versus 7,652 from Israel. Read more »