In the State of Palestine, very few children of primary school age are excluded from education, but by age 15, nearly 25% of boys and 7% of girls have dropped out, and nearly five per cent of 10-15-year-old children and one out of three 6-9 year-olds with disabilities are out of school.
The inadequate provision of tailored education services inside schools leads to exclusion within education, which then pushes low achieving children out of the education system altogether. Children from vulnerable households, children with disabilities, and 14-15-year-old boys are all affected by this system-wide barrier related the inclusiveness, quality and equity of education services in Palestine. Once out of school, the options for tailored education services outside of schools are inadequate in quality and availability to facilitate a child’s return to school or continued learning outside of school.
The fragmented nature of preventive support services, such as health services and social assistance programs, represent a missed opportunity to promote the well-being of school-age children, which is directly related to their ability to regularly attend school and be physically and emotionally prepared to learn. Children from vulnerable households and children with disabilities are most severely affected by the fragmented nature of preventive support services.
The direct and indirect costs associated with schooling disproportionately affects children from vulnerable households and children with disabilities. These costs may include costs associated with school donations, uniforms, stationary and school bags, and transportation.
Problematic administrative regulations and practices act as barriers to children’s access to education, and can create gaps in the system that some children fall through. These barriers disproportionately affect children who are from vulnerable households where parents are less able to understand and navigate administrative red tape due to their low levels of education and limited time and financial resources.
Finally, gaps in the identification of children who never enrolled in school and the monitoring of children who are at risk of exclusion from education has disproportionately affected the three key profiles of out-of-school children because their exclusion is often not identified in a timely and effective manner.
POLICIES AND STRATEGIES
The National Education Development Strategic Plan (2014-2019) aims to strengthen back-to-school programs to incentivize dropped out students to return to the education system. The Plan also proposes to increase counselling, health services and educational remedial programs to reduce the likelihood of dropping-out for the most vulnerable children.
The Palestine Inclusive Education Policy (2015) highlights the need to focus on understanding why some children are not accessing or staying in education, and what can be done to make education more relevant and more inclusive, to reduce drop-out rates of children with disabilities.
The Policy to Combat on Non-Violence and Enhance School Discipline (2013), aims to address violence and strengthen discipline in schools to ensure the protection of students and educational staff. Under this policy framework, the school community comprising principal, teachers, school staff, students and their parents is developed and strengthened to create a safe learning environment.
The Social Protection Sector Strategy (2010) ambitions to eliminate school drop-out by coordinating with the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Education regarding children who dropped out of school and child labor in order to protect such children and reintroduce them into education.
Target children with low academic performance and children with disabilities:
- Focus on quality improvement efforts on low performing schools, children with low academic performance and students in grades 1-4.
- Enable effective follow-up by school level actors for the treatment of children diagnosed with vision and hearing problems.
- Facilitate and support the provision of education programs for children with severe cognitive disabilities by specialized education providers.
Enhance remedial education:
- Improve quality and availability of second-chance education programs.
- Introduce year-round remedial education programs for children with low academic performance.
- Provide second-chance education programs for children younger than 15 and introduce different models of education for children in pastoralist communities.
- Develop and implement distance learning programs.
Reduce the cost of schooling:
- Provide school grants for prioritized schools that predominantly serve children from poorest households.
- Introduce need and merit based scholarships in targeted schools and targeted grades.
- Revise the policy and practice of collecting donations by schools (e.g. collecting donations on a sliding scale, taking measures to ensure donations are collected on a voluntary basis and spent transparently).
- Revise the Palestinian National Cash Transfer Program to help vulnerable families in meeting the indirect costs of education as well as incentivizing completion of basic education and transition to upper secondary school.
- Provide free or subsidized school bus services.
Support teacher and counselor training as well as the referral system:
- Support system-wide efforts for improving teacher competencies and curricula in ways that increase their benefits for children who have low academic achievement.
- Equip counsellors with the skills and tools to intervene in individual cases of children who are at imminent risk of leaving school.
- Strengthen the child protection network’s referral system for out-of-school children and children who are at risk of dropping out.
Review administrative practices and identify children at risk of exclusion:
- Improve monitoring of absenteeism at the school level by introducing early warning systems with follow-up and response protocols.
- Improve administrative data collection and usage to both identify children who are at risk of being excluded from education and measure the impact of interventions to prevent their exclusion.
- Improve administrative data collection systems by enhancing data sharing arrangements, the quality of administrative data on dropout, and the availability and quality of administrative data.