Beirut, 27 November 2018 – UNESCO Regional Bureau for Education in the Arab States, in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, hosted today a high-level panel to launch a new project “Supporting Francophone teaching and learning for vulnerable Lebanese and non-Lebanese students”. Funded by the Education Cannot Wait Fund, supported by the French government and the Ministry of Education and Higher Education in Lebanon, and designed by UNESCO, the project aims to promote the quality and effectiveness of teaching and learning in French for vulnerable Lebanese and non-Lebanese students enrolled in public schools.
The launching ceremony, which took place at the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, was attended by Mr Fadi Yarak, Director General of the Ministry of Education, representing the Minister Mr Marwan Hamadeh, and a number of high-level participants, including: representatives of education institutions from Lebanon and the region, representatives from national and international organizations, NGOs, coaches and coordinators, teacher training institutes, universities, research institutes and media partners.
The high-level panel was moderated by Mr Philippe Lazzarini, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Lebanon, and included four speakers: Mr Fadi Yarak, Mr Bruno Foucher, Ambassador of France in Lebanon, Dr Hamed Al Hammami, director of UNESCO Office in Beirut, and Ms Yasmine Sherif, director of Education Cannot Wait Fund.
In his intervention, Mr Yarak stated: “The Lebanese people have a strong attachment to French culture, which forms an integral part of our education. They have identified freely with the French culture, and continue to do so in trust and loyalty”. Mr Yarak said that “In the era of globalization, Francophonie continues to promote the universal values of human rights, inherited from the Enlightenment; through this project we will make sure that French continues to have a strong place in our culture and our education system”.
Dr Hamed Al Hammami highlighted that “as the lead UN agency to coordinate international efforts to reach the SDG4 Goals, UNESCO is working closely with the Lebanese government, as well as local development agencies, civil society, academic and private sector to support the integration, and implementation of the Education 2030 agenda in Lebanon education sector plans through capacity development and technical assistance”. Al Hammami added: “Now we are happy with our new collaboration in promoting Francophone Education in Lebanon. The project will be managed centrally by the UNESCO – UNESCO staff will provide their technical guidance and contributions to areas addressed in the project, of course in close consultation with MEHE”.
Ms. Yasmine Sherif praised the Ministry of Education and UNESCO for leading this effort, and stressed the importance of this initiative in supporting the Ministry in its effort to improve quality education for vulnerable Lebanese children and hosted communities. She advocated the need to scale up and sustain this form of support in the future to shoulder the large efforts of the Government of Lebanon in addressing the challenges resulting from the regional crisis.
As for Mr Bruno Foucher, he reiterated the French government’s commitment to actively promote the Francophonie, and to support initiatives that aim to spread its values. Mr Foucher said: “We have played a part in initiating this project, which comes after a decision by President Macron to allocate French funding for the first time to the Education Cannot Wait Fund and to channel these funds into Lebanon. With this project, we are investing in the training of teachers of French language and teachers who teach in French so that French – which is essential for the multilingualism of this country, for its pluralism, for the attractiveness of its students vis-a-vis employers – remains strong. This project will benefit 300 public schools, 120 trainers, hundreds of teachers and 140,000 children”.
The high-level panel was followed by a brief overview of the project. The project is based on the observation that Lebanese students as well as Syrian refugees enrolled in Lebanon’s public schools face a French language barrier: 74% of public schools use French as the medium of instruction for core subjects including mathematics and science. While many Lebanese students find the transition from Arabic to French medium instruction challenging, this issue is compounded for their non-Lebanese peers, namely Syrian nationals who have fled the conflict in their home country, and who represent half of all pupils enrolled in Lebanese public schools. Hence, UNESCO’s project aims to promote the quality and effectiveness of teaching and learning in French to improve student outcomes in core subjects.
It is to be noted that the project is anchored in key governmental and international instruments responding to the impact of the Syria crisis, including the 2017-2018 Lebanon Crisis Response Plan and the Lebanese Government’s RACE II strategy 2017-2020, as well as the Outcome Statements of the London and Brussels Conferences.