I was fortunate to grow up in a country with universal access to education and find it difficult to imagine a place where this is not so. Yet there are so many children across the world who don't have access to education, and even in those countries (like Lebanon) where most children go to school, various problems plague the curricula. For example, in Lebanon the different confessional groups often teach their children their own versions of historical events, so children from one part of the country learn different "facts" than those from another part. (Indeed, some Lebanon schools tear out the pages of history books when they find something they don't like.)
There is little "social cohesion" involved in Lebanese education, according to the Center for Lebanese Studies and the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at AUB, which held a conference last week entitled Education for Social Cohesion in Lebanon. The conference discussed the need for hands on civic education and critical thinking in Lebanon's education curricula.
Recommendations from the conference include:
- Lift restrictions currently imposed on student councils in public schools and provide support and training for students on running student councilsThe beauty of universal public education is exactly that - it creates a social cohesion among a nation. It would be wise to consider adopting the recommendations of the Center for Lebanese Studies and the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at AUB.
- Emphasize critical and analytical history education, which is as important if not more important and persistent than developing a unified history text book which might take a long time to be developed. Hence there is an urgent need to run teacher training workshops for teaching history through active and analytical pedagogies
- Provide financial incentives to schools to recruit a more diverse student body
- Teach about the Palestinian refugees in the national history textbook
- Emphasize the role of the school as a community of learners, support and inclusion, rather than a technical institution primarily concerned with official exams
- Encourage parental engagement
- Switch from knowledge-based civic education, which is ineffective in promoting social cohesion, to a more hands-on approach
- Support the National Educational Scouting Group
- Train teachers to learn to interweave social cohesion in their classroom