Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

Tracking Drop-Out Students in Palestinian Refugee Camps in Lebanon

Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

Tracking Drop-Out Students in Palestinian Refugee Camps in Lebanon

Article excerpt

This research paper examines the perceptions of students on the school drop-out problem in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon regarding (a) the social and economic causes associated with the phenomenon of school drop-out; (b) the educational policies and practices used in UNRWA schools and their relationship to student drop-out; and (c) the role that parents play in preventing Palestinian students from dropping out of school. Based on qualitative field data, the methodology is grounded in tracking the trajectories of five drop-out cases. These five cases were drawn from four carefully selected United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) schools in Lebanon. The cases provide ethnographic accounts of the risk factors underlying students' dropping out of school in these communities. Attention is paid to important issues, including socio-economic status, school curriculum and services, corporal punishment, and family involvement. The conclusion of this paper looks toward developing a plan to address the rate of early school drop-out in Palestinian refugee camps based on the findings of this report.

Introduction

The basic education system in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon is managed by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Palestinian families and civil society have raised concerns about the quality of education received by most Palestinian children, especially the rising percentage of early school drop-out. Structural and institutional factors have led to this. On the one hand, structural issues include the legal restrictions faced by Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, such as the limited opportunities to attend university (primarily because of lack of resources to pay for higher education and because, as noted, most jobs for university graduates are effectively denied to Palestinian refugees in Lebanon). On the other hand, institutional issues include UNRWA's management of its educational programs. The lack of extracurricular activities, such as physical education and arts classes, provided in UNRWA schools, as well as the limited sports and leisure facilities, which are a result of the lack of space and resources, also contribute to high drop-out levels (Al-Hroub, 2014; CSUCS, 2007). This situation is intensified by poor sanitary conditions in the camps, which affects the morale and motivation of students, as well as undermining their performance (CSUCS, 2007; Demirdjian, 2007).

Much of the research on the UNRWA school drop-outs in Lebanon has been rooted in a desire to identify the causes, related factors or motivations underlying the act of dropping out. Most existing research takes as its starting point an examination of the characteristics of those students who drop out. Although much is known about the individual attributes of drop-outs in the UNRWA schools in Lebanon (e.g. Abdunnur, Abdunnur & Madi, 2008; CSUCS, 2007; Ugland, 2003; UNRWA, 2008), most research has not gone beyond a statistical account of the drop-out phenomenon. Studies which exclusively rely on statistical data to present a picture of drop-outs do not reveal to the researcher the motivations and experiences of those choosing to drop out. This study has adopted an alternative qualitative approach so as to attend to the micro-experiences of individual drop-outs, while at the same time enabling the construction of a macro-level understanding of the phenomenon.

The review of literature will be divided into three sections: (1) Palestinians' rights to education and employment in Lebanon, (2) General factors related to dropping out; and (3) Specific risk factors related to refugee students' dropping out.

Palestinians' rights to education and employment in Lebanon

In Lebanon, Palestinian refugee children and young people have restricted access to the public school system. Furthermore, the cost of private education in Lebanon is among the highest in the region, and most families do not have the financial resources to enrol their children in one of these institutions (Al-Hroub, 2014). …

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