Youth unemployment and the Future of Education in the GCC

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Countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have made tremendous progress in the past decades, building cities at the forefront of innovation, becoming global leaders in select industries, and continuously expanding their global aspirations. However, even with decades of economic expansion and extensive investments in education, infrastructure projects, and economic diversification, high youth unemployment rates persist.

Experts acknowledge that youth unemployment is a complex phenomenon emanating from a multitude of converging factors. However, there is a wide agreement that one of the major factors in the GCC is due to the lack of alternative educational systems.

Our current world is evolving more rapidly than the capacity of any existing educational system. The challenge of learning is getting even harder for the next generations. According to one popular estimate, 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist. 

In such a rapidly evolving employment landscape, the ability to anticipate and prepare for future skills requirements, job content and the aggregate effect on employment is increasingly critical for businesses, governments and individuals in order to fully seize the opportunities presented by these trends—and to mitigate undesirable outcomes.

The current educational system fails to provide young people with the skills necessary to build a generation trained to solve problems. This leads us to the question; what should the school of tomorrow look like? Here are some ideas:

  • Imagine students accessing multiple learning pathways in a school that will empower a new generation of environmental and social change makers.
  • Imagine students in a school where they learn to think like designers as they acquire complex skills and knowledge.
  • Imagine students conducting high-impact research alongside educators and experts in a school that builds community by saving the community.
  • Imagine students in a school that looks and feels like a research lab or design studio, where curiosity is cultivated to unlock endless discovery.
  • Imagine students in a school committed to unlocking their individual potential, creating new academic opportunities and connecting them around with local businesses.
  • Imagine students in a networked school, where educators and community professionals guide and support them along a uniquely designed learning path.
  • Imagine students in a school within the local museum, actively learning from the region's history while contributing to the revitalization of their own city.
  • Imagine students in a school at the forefront of emerging technologies, where the core of their learning experience integrates humanities, STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and global citizenship.
  • Imagine students in a school that gives displaced and disconnected youth powerful pathways to college, career and life.
  • Imagine students in a school that engages them in local and global challenges while inspiring both social-emotional and academic growth.

Tackling these challenges needs the concerted effort of all stakeholders in society. While governments must create the enabling environment that promotes inclusive growth and employment, facilitates quality education and skills development, and provides safety nets for those that are marginalized, it is critical that business, civil society and the education and training sector are also engaged in identifying and implementing solutions.

I hope that this article will serve as a call to action to more stakeholders to join the momentum towards solutions to an issue that is critical to our future. Ultimately, its through collective actions that change can can occur and that unemployment disrupted.