18 February 2014

Policy Brief: The role of education in the Arab Spring

The lack of quality education in Arab-Spring countries and the role of the European Union is subject of the latest Policy Brief by POP Researcher Anne Goujon.

©UN Photo/John Isaac

©UN Photo/John Isaac

As a result of educational shortcomings, today large shares of the working-age population in the Arab-Spring countries do not have the right qualifications for entering the labor market, with the consequence of high levels of unemployment, poverty and social distress. This lack of quality education helps explain the Arab Spring according to the latest Policy Brief authored by World Population Program Research Scholar Anne Goujon and published by the Österreichische Gesellschaft für Europapolitik.

“Inadequate access to relevant quality education is at the heart of the challenges faced by most North African societies in the post-Arab Spring era,” says Goujon.

At the macro level, it triggers a vicious cycle of underdevelopment by hampering an upgrade to economies driven by knowledge and innovation despite the substantial numbers of higher educated citizens of working age in these countries. Because it is the source of many deficiencies plaguing this region, remedying the current lack of quality education should be a top priority in the countries of North Africa. This includes investments in female education, school infrastructure, and skilled labor, that would all cater the demands for democratization and less corruption claimed particularly by higher educated parts of societies.

As one of the biggest donors in this region, the European Union could help channel available sectoral resources given for education in Arab-Spring countries to improve the quality rather than focusing mainly on quantity, such as raising enrollment. Goujon gives the following policy recommendations:

  • EU Member States should increase bilateral cooperation for teacher training with Arab Spring Countries
  • Focus on transparency and accountability in teachers training
  • Promote the role of the EU as an umbrella and catalyst for all aid-driven education system reforms activities 

She concludes, that “investments in education should be a natural outcome in the post-Arab Spring period,” and particularly “quality teacher training […] must definitely be on top of the agenda for cooperation.”

Anne Goujon is working in the fields of education and human capital. In addition to items related to age, sex and the demographic behavior of populations she also studies the educational attainment of these populations from a historical and prospective viewpoint. Goujon has published several single and co-authored studies on the Middle East and North Africa. The ideas for this paper were developed in the framework of the Diplomatic Academy Student Initiative (DASI) conference held in Vienna on 25 January 2013.


Goujon, A (2013) The Arab Spring: The role of quality education and the consequences of its lack. Policy Brief. Vienna: Österreichische Gesellschaft für Europapolitik.

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Last edited: 18 February 2014

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