The Future of Syria and the Importance of Education
While the children of Syria cope with life-threatening concerns, they remain the future of Syria’s success and higher education is critical for this success. Before the civil war, Syria was classified as a middle-development country that offered subsidized education to nearly all children, including high school and university. Experts worry that the future of Syria can be heavily damaged by the lack of education of Syrian youth. According to a Save the Children report, less education is correlated with less income and a higher reliance on government support. The same article states that children who are more educated are also less likely to deal with issues like child mortality, child labor, and recruitment by armed groups. Education can also contribute to a child’s mental resilience. Maintaining a high standard for education is critical because a generation of Syrians is going to be necessary to return and rebuild the country after the conflict.
Despite the importance of education, access to degrees that are necessary to rebuild Syria are extremely limited. Organizations like the Syrian National Coalition (Etilaf) run programs that allow refugees to receive alternative degrees and are successful with higher passing rates. However, lack of international recognition of these degrees limits their ability to be put to use. Only universities in Tukey and Qatar recognize the Etilaf diploma, which is better than not having a diploma, but still limits the capabilities of Syrian youth to advance their educational careers.
Other factors that contribute to Syrian youth’s frustration with the education system’s ability to provide for their future prospects include high tuition rates, as well as competing material and testing standards within host countries. Differences in testing standards, for example, exist in Syrian refugee camps in Jordan. In order to pass high school, students in the Syrian refugee camps have to take the tawjhi, which has different testing material than what was taught in Syrian schools. According to an Al Jazeera article on education prospects in refugee camps, only 2 % of the Syrian students pass the test. Students also struggle when it comes to passing the tawjhi because the subject matter they learned in Syria is different from what they are being taught in Jordan. Even when students do prioritize their education and do pass the test, their ability to go on to a university is hindered by high foreigner-tuition rates and lack of funding opportunities.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees is the UN organ that works with helping refugees. The UNHCR’s limited budget and political focus on immediate needs for food, water, and medical supplies detracts from their investment in more education. Further, the need to meet the educational standards that existed previously for Syrians within Syria now needs to be provided by international aid or development programs. The UNCHR has never dealt with a refugee crisis from a middle income country like Syria where education was available and free. It only has the resources and the institutional capabilities to provide basic level education and skill building.
There are immediate needs that do need to be met for Syrian refugees and education currently isn’t considered one, it’s considered a long term need for future development. However, it should be at the forefront of the international community’s agenda in terms of policy making for refugees as this generation of Syrian youth will need education to rebuild a sustainable Syria.
Image obtained from Syrian Human Rights Committee.