UNRWA: At Least 5,000 Drop-outs in 2010/11 School Year

01 October 2013

1 October 2013

Reflecting its commitment to education as a vital investment in the human development of Palestine refugees, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has published the results of a comprehensive study on students who drop out of school and the reasons for which they do so.

Dr Caroline Pontefract, UNRWA Director of Education, noted: "The research provides important insights on the underlying causes that make students drop out of school. It will help UNRWA education staff, schools and teachers to identify warning signs and risk factors for drop-outs, and put in place preventive support mechanisms." The study will also provide an important baseline by which to measure the Agency's success in reducing drop-out rates.

Conducted during the 2011/12 school year, the study examined 172 UNRWA schools across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In order to obtain a thorough understanding of the reasons that force students to drop out, UNRWA educationalists interviewed students, their parents and their teachers, while the data was analysed by researchers at the University of York, UK, and the American Institute for Research, Washington, DC.

The study clusters its findings into 10 main reasons. It found that, overall, drop-outs indicated that academic-related issues – whether underachievement, lack of interest or fear of exams – were the most salient factors behind the decision to drop out.

The findings also revealed that students who have repeated a grade are over 10 times more likely to drop out than their peers who have not. In the 2010/11 year, the majority of drop-outs Agency-wide, at 56 per cent, were male, and drop-out rates were higher in all-male schools than in all-female or coeducational schools. However, in Jordan, the rate was higher among females, with early marriage identified as a major factor. The study also shows that the majority of drop-outs, both male and female, had experienced at least one socioeconomic risk factor.

Education and skills training represents one of the Agency's most important services for Palestine refugees. Dr Pontefract emphasized that the findings of the study make a valuable contribution to UNRWA efforts to provide high-quality, evidence-based education to the nearly 500,000 students it educates. She added that the study contributes as well to the wider discourse and understanding of the drop-out phenomenon, which the report describes as an "enduring world issue."

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Background Information

UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA Programme Budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s Programme Budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.

For more information, please contact:

Christopher Gunness
Spokesperson, Director of Advocacy & Strategic Communications
+972 (0)54 240 2659
+972 (0)2 589 0267
Sami Mshasha
Chief of Communications, Arabic Language Spokesperson
+972 (0)54 216 8295
+972 (0)258 90724
Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
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