In Chapter 1 of this report, the authors pose several important questions -- first, "How much have MENA countries invested in human capital through education?" within the past forty years, and second, "What has been the impact of this investment on the level, quality and distribution of human capital?" (the Road Not Traveled, 9). In order to answer these questions, we must consult a number of tables in the MENA report which sheds much light on Syria's past and current educational system and how it is linked to the country's economy.
First of all, in Table 1.1., the Average of Public Expenditure in Education as a Percentage of GDP, between 1965 and 1974, the percentage stood at 3.3; between 1975 and 1984, 5.4; between 1985 and 1994, 4.3, and between 1995 and 2003, 3.2 which indicates that Syria's expenditures on education rose between 1975 and 1984 and then dropped to a level almost equal to the period of 1965 to 1974. These numbers show that Syria's need for human capital as it relates to education started off relatively well and then plummeted, perhaps due to changes in Syria's economic conditions in the 1990's. In Table 1.2, Public Expenditure per Student, we find that primary spending per pupil in 1980 stood at $22 and in 2002 had risen to $477; secondary spending per pupil in 2002 stood at $883, but tertiary spending per pupil in 2002 is blank, due to a lack of data. In Table 1.5, Average Years of Schooling for those over the age of fifteen, in 1960 the number stood at 1.35, in 1980 at 3.65 and in 2000 at 5.77. These last figures demonstrate that despite the Syrian government's mandate of providing an education to all of its citizens, most never went beyond the 6th grade (the Road Not Traveled, 11, 12 & 16). As to test scores, Table 1.6, the Average Test Scores of TIMSS and PISA, reveals that in 2003 there were no test scores available for Syria; however, for the three Gulf States of Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, the MENA Development Report claims that test scores for these states were "essentially flat," one reason being that "the very high GDP/capita in the three oil states reflects wealth per inhabitant" and is not the "kind of wealth based on higher education... associated with children's higher academic performance in school" (the Road Not Traveled, 19-20).
Without a doubt, one of the most important weaknesses related to the availability of human capital is Syria's failure to provide an adequate and secular education to its citizens, especially those between the ages of five and twenty-one. In sum, without an educated public, a country like Syria cannot compete in a global economy. As Nimrod Raphaeli puts it, this weakness in human capital is directly linked to the Syrian economy which over the last forty years has remained "an old-fashioned, inefficient and heavily-regulated socialist command economy" ruled over by a "quasi-totalitarian regime characterized by political and educational repression and by large-scale corruption," particularly in the educational system ("Syria's Fragile Economy," 245). Other weaknesses are related to Syrian economic growth which in 2005 was a modest 4.6% and then dropped to 3.5% in 2006 (Raphaeli, "Syria's Fragile Economy," 246). In addition, Joshua M. Landis maintains that Syria has chosen "not to follow a path of religious liberalism," due to the continuing influence of the Baath Party. Landis also points out that if the current Syrian government ever loses power, "the education Syrians acquire in school will not contribute to the continuation of policies of religious exclusion and intolerance" ("Islamic Education in Syria," Internet). Thus, the overall quality of the educational system in modern Syria appears to be quite low, due to the Syrian government's refusal to base their educational system on secularism and the modest progression of its economy which in the long run must improve so that Syrian students can compete in today's global economic environment.
Landis, Joshua M. "Islamic Education in Syria: Undoing Secularism." 2008. Internet.
Retrieved October 22, 2008 at http://faculty-staff.ou.edu/L/Joshua.M.Landis-1/Islamic%20Education%20in%20Syria.htm.
Raphaeli, Nimrod. "Syria's Fragile Economy." MERIA -- Middle Eastern Review of International Affairs. Vol. 11 no. 2 (June 2007): 245-50. Available online at http://meria.idc.ac.il/journal/2007/issue2/jv11no2a4.html.
Syrian Education." Country Studies. 2008. Library of Congress. Internet. Retrieved October…