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."
UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.
Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 54.3 million.
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