Education in the West Bank

In the West Bank UNRWA provides basic education, which covers grades 1- 9, and Grade 10 in two schools in East Jerusalem. In the 2019/2020 school year, UNRWA reached over 45,883 students in its 96 schools. Two vocational training centres provide training for over 1,073 students in skilled trades and manufacturing.

The West Bank has implemented the Agency-wide Education Reform Strategy, incorporating teacher professional development, curriculum, student assessment, inclusive education, technical and vocational education, research, and education data management. In the West Bank, teachers’ classroom practices are being improved through the School Based Teacher Development (SBTD I and II) programmes. These help teachers to develop their pedagogical approaches and methodologies that activate learners’ classroom interaction. By December 2018, approximately 1,477 UNRWA teachers in the West Bank had completed the SBTD I, and approximately 334 teachers the SBTD II programme. Leadership practices are being mainstreamed through the Leading for the Future (LftF) programme, which reached approximately 118 school principals and deputy school principals by December 2018.

UNRWA schools in the West Bank strive to install democratic school cultures and foster citizenship and leadership skills, enabling Palestine refugee children to look towards the future with commitment and hopefulness. In this regard, the Human Rights, Conflict Resolution and Tolerance (HRCRT) programme was introduced with the aim of developing knowledge, skills and attitudes of students towards a culture of human rights, non-violence, healthy communication skills, peaceful conflict resolution, and good citizenship. Embedded into the HRCRT programme is the student parliament intended to install a democratic school culture, while fostering citizenship and leadership skills of pupils. In April 2019, the West Bank field conducted the ‘Student’s Parliament Forum 2019’. Here, nine (9) schools presented their school parliament initiatives, and an additional five (5) schools participated in a panel on parliamentary issues. Student parliamentarians from the West Bank represented UNRWA students in many important international events, such as the League of Arab States, and the UNRWA Pledging Conference in New York in 2017 and 2018.

Ensuring that the learning material used in UNRWA schools supports UN values has been a particular challenge in the West Bank. As all fields, the West Bank Field follows the curriculum of the host country. The Palestinian Authority Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE), as part of its overall education reform, began the process of changing its curriculum and from 2016 with new textbooks issued in a phased approach. UNRWA West Bank field uses the UNRWA Curriculum Framework, introduced in 2013, to support the review of all textbooks and learning materials used in UNRWA schools. In addition to undertaking regular Curriculum Framework reviews, Rapid Reviews of newly issued textbooks were initiated with regards to the new textbooks. UNRWA has been engaged in reviewing the State of Palestine textbooks since 2016 and has undertaken five reviews to date. Here, the textbooks are reviewed against three key criteria: 1) Neutrality/Bias, 2) Gender, and 3) Age-appropriateness. Teachers were then trained on the Teacher Centred Approach (TCA), an approach that helps the teachers to address any potential issues of concern, identified in the textbooks.

In 2018, UNRWA in the West Bank provided academic, technical, and vocational education to a total of 1,608 young people. 1,004 of these were Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) trainees through the Ramallah Women Training Centre (RWTC) and Kalandia Training Centre (KTC), and 604 of which were registered in the Educational Science Faculty (ESF) teacher training college. The RWTC students achieved a 99.4 per cent success rate in the Ministerial Government Comprehensive Examination of 2018, compared to a national average of 89.4 per cent. However, the employment rates of UNRWA graduates decreased from the previous year, reflecting the challenging context due to unpredictable fluctuations in the Palestinian labour market over the years.

UNRWA in the West Bank is proud of its achievements to date, with no UNRWA school buildings operating on a double or triple shift basis in 2018 and a substantial reduction in the preparatory and elementary repetition rates for 2018, as compared to 2017. Also, two UNRWA schools in the West Bank were among the six winners in the ‘Young Scientists Forum’ 2018 competition, funded by the Islamic Development Bank and implemented by the Welfare Foundation.

The adverse political situation and barriers to education access has resulted in high levels of violence, despair, trauma and anxiety amongst children. The Agency’s funding and austerity measures, implemented in 2018, also affected the overall programme performance, including the implementation of some activities. There is also a challenge with regards to the continued delivery of education in UNRWA schools in East Jerusalem and, in addition, the shortage of qualified teachers to work inside East Jerusalem due to access issues between the West Bank and East Jerusalem is another challenge for UNRWA.