Yemen, a small Middle Eastern nation southwest of Saudi Arabia, has embarked on an ambitious goal in the past decade and a half to drastically reform its education system. As part of the 2000 UN Millennium Development Goal project launched nearly 15 years ago, Yemen set a goal of reaching 100 percent primary school enrollment by 2015.
As 2014 draws to a close, it appears that Yemen will not be meeting its Millennium Development education goal by next year. However, statistics indicate significant progress has been made in recent years, though more attention is needed to bring education in Yemen up to par with other developed nations. According to the World Bank, Yemen’s net primary school enrollment rate stood at 86 percent in 2013, the last year data was made available. These numbers are up from 66 percent in 2001.
Educational improvements may in part be attributed to the implementation of several ambitious educational reform projects. One such project, the Secondary Education Development and Girls Access Project (SEDGAP), was launched in 2007 with the goal of addressing three main areas of the Yemeni education system: “improving equity and reducing gender gaps, enhancing the quality of service delivery, and project management and monitoring.”
To help reduce educational gender gaps, SEDGAP imposed a minimum 15 percent female representation requirement in new teaching posts. As of 2008, only 7.5 percent of secondary school teachers in rural areas were female. Anecdotal evidence has suggested that hiring female teachers attracts greater female enrollment rates. According to the International Development Association (IDA), this may be due in part to the fact that Yemeni parents tend to object to male instructors teaching their daughters, particularly in higher grades.
Other material and social factors such as lack of transportation, poor school facilities and early marriage have also been significant contributors to the educational gender gap. These material factors appear to disproportionately affect girls living in rural areas.
SEDGAP has introduced a variety of other reforms to improve service delivery and monitoring. Some of these reforms include new guidelines aimed to balance out uneven student-teacher ratios across rural and urban schools, more consistent oversight of teacher absenteeism and salaries, textbook revisions for grades 1-12, and new oversight regulations for Yemen’s three public educational ministries.
SEDGAP implementation will be completed in late January 2015. A February 2014 impartial review of the project concluded moderate satisfaction in meeting progress development objectives.
World Bank data indicates gross enrollment rates for basic, secondary and tertiary education have increased overall for Yemeni boys and girls. Nevertheless, more time is needed to meet Millennium Development education goals, particularly for secondary education targets among females. According to the United Nation Development Programme, only 7.6 percent of Yemeni females age 25 and over have at least some secondary education.
– Katrina Beedy