Key to the vision for UNRWA education, and central to the reform, is ensuring that the curriculum taught in UNRWA schools supports the type of quality teaching and learning that UNRWA strives to achieve. Through the current Medium-Term Strategy (2016-21), the UNRWA education programme strives to embed, sustain and enrich the reform policies, practices and principles, including continuing to ensure that the curriculum taught in UNRWA schools continues to develop UNRWA students as critical, creative thinkers and global citizens.
UNRWA has used the host country curricula in its schools since its establishment to both enable its students to take state examinations at the end of each cycle and to transition to the host country secondary and tertiary education. As a UN Agency and a direct service provider of education in its five fields of operations, UNRWA has always worked to ensure that the delivery of education to its more than 526,000 students aligns with the broader UN development goals and reflects the values and principles of the UN. UNRWA therefore works to enrich the host country curricula in each of its fields of operations to ensure that the curricula taught in UNRWA schools reflect its educational approach, including critical thinking.
In 2013 UNRWA put in place the UNRWA Framework for Analysis and Quality Implementation of the Curriculum (Curriculum Framework or Framework) to support curriculum delivery in its schools, in line with the education reform vision. The Framework was developed with the active engagement of all fields, facilitated by international curriculum development specialists from UNESCO’s International Bureau of Education (IBE) and with UNRWA HQ Education staff, as well as with the support of the Legal Affairs, Gender and Disability internal officers.
The Curriculum Framework emphasizes the importance of reflecting the UN values, such as neutrality, human rights, tolerance, equality and non-discrimination with regard to race, gender, language and religion, throughout the teaching and learning process in UNRWA schools. It also aims to ensure that the curriculum taught in UNRWA does acknowledge the Palestinian heritage and culture of the students, and meets their learning needs too.
The Framework includes tools to guide review and enrichment of host country curricula, textbooks, and other learning material. It also serves as the UNRWA policy reference document on curriculum in UNRWA schools, and as a framework to support the professional development of teachers.
The Curriculum Framework includes ten key principles for the delivery of curriculum in its schools. These principles reflect the UNRWA vision for education, such as the need for the curriculum to be relevant to students' lives, to promote active learning and deep understanding rather than memorization, to be inclusive and free from bias, and to reflect UN values.
The Curriculum Framework enables the education staff in the fields, in particular teachers and school principals, to develop key life competencies in their students:
There are two cross-cutting issues of particular importance for curriculum delivery in UNRWA schools: inclusion and gender equality. The inclusive approach to education seeks to ensure that the curriculum meets the individual needs of all students through enrichment, differentiation and adaptation of curriculum content, materials, methods and assessment. To achieve gender equality in the curriculum, the UNRWA education programme addresses attitudes, teaching practices, textbooks and other materials that may enforce gender stereotypes and bias.
The Curriculum Framework also emphasises cross- curriculum themes that provide connections between subjects and ways in which subjects can be made relevant to students’ lives. The UNRWA cross-curriculum themes are:
In addition to undertaking regular Curriculum Framework reviews, UNRWA staff conduct rapid reviews of any newly issued textbooks in any of its five fields of operations as required. Here, the textbooks are reviewed against three key criteria, related to the UN values in the UNRWA Curriculum Framework: 1) neutrality/bias, 2) gender and 3) age-appropriateness. The findings of the detailed reviews are shared with the relevant fields, alongside support as to how to address identified issues in the classroom.