The UNRWA Education programme is undergoing a transformation. Reforms are underway that will better position the Agency to meet the evolving demands of an education system in the twenty-first century. These will lead to improved quality of learning for Palestine refugee students in UNRWA schools, vocational training centres and education faculties.
The education reform strategy sets out a comprehensive, interrelated plan of action. Optimal benefits and sustainable impact will be achieved through this approach, which ensures that students are at the centre of the system, teachers are supported, schools are empowered and the whole UNRWA education system is strengthened. After being pre-tested and implemented within UNRWA fields, reform components will be mainstreamed across the Agency’s education system by 2015.
Teachers are UNRWA’s single most important educational resource, central to the provision of quality education. Following formal adoption in 2013, a teacher professionalization policy and a teacher career path policy will provide a framework for the Agency to support and motivate teachers as valued professionals to deliver the highest-quality education. These policies will encompass teacher recruitment and training, professional development and support, diversified and motivating career opportunities, professional accountability and quality assurance, and school empowerment.
The school-based teacher development (SBTD) programme, to be launched in October 2012, shows teachers how to embrace new methods of supporting student learning away from a didactic approach (focusing on a process of memorization) towards holistic styles and approaches ('active learning'). Two of the six teacher training modules were pre-tested by 250 teachers across all five fields during 2012. The results were very positive, with the overall majority of teachers saying they liked the “style,” the “approach” and the “language” used, and were confident that improved learning outcomes would be achieved through the learning activities and case studies.
Global research evidence shows that school leadership is a key factor in the quality of education a school provides. The school-based principal development (SBPD) programme, to be launched in October 2012, builds on head teachers’ and principals’ existing knowledge of leading and managing people and strengthens competent and confident leadership through the acquisition of practical skills, tools and techniques to support effective, efficient and equitable education.
The philosophy of inclusive education is the underpinning of this reform. It lays out a set of actions and practices and teaching methods that teachers can employ with their pupils. Inclusive education does not only refer to children with special needs or to remedial education, but rather is an approach that aims to meet the learning, health and psychosocial needs of all children. Through the reform, teachers’ capacity will be strengthened to adopt strategies and approaches for learning that are inclusive of all children.
UNRWA has been teaching human rights, conflict resolution and tolerance (HRCRT) in its schools for many years. Guided by the HRCRT policy adopted in 2012, UNRWA’s teaching in these areas is being updated, building upon past successes and drawing from international best practices in human rights education in schools. The HRCRT policy sets out the commitment for common objectives and outcomes for all UNRWA schools on teaching and learning about human rights, conflict resolution and tolerance. Gaza is the first field to have piloted the enriched human rights materials into the curriculums of grades 1 through 7, ahead of integration within all fields of operations taking place between 2013 and 2015.
UNRWA provides education in varied contexts and different host-country education systems, and it is important therefore to ensure that the delivery of education in its schools aligns with the broader development goals of the Education programme. The programme must also reflect the values, principles, and purposes of the United Nations. One of the key elements of the reform, therefore, is a system to maintain high-quality standards across all fields, and the framework for quality analysis and implementation of the curriculum will enable this by identifying and fulfilling needs for enrichment material.
Strategic planning, research and development are essential components of a successful education system. Working within the Agency-wide results-based monitoring (RBM) system, a common monitoring framework for education (CMF) has been developed. Here, corecommon education indicators, reflecting the goals of the Agency as well as international definitions and standards, have been adopted by all fields. Measuring progress and impact against clearly articulated indicators is enabling UNRWA to better understand what is happening across the Agency.
Plans and specifications for an Agency-wide education management information system (EMIS) have been finalized. This will allow for the tracking of individual students, the generation of automatic reports and the computerization of relevant indicators and projected figures – all fundamental to improving the quality of the learning experience and providing schools teachers with appropriate and timely professional and administrative support.