In November, the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement will publish the results of its latest Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

The results indicate how a country’s education system is performing compared with the rest of the world. Improving education sits at the very top of the region’s policy priorities and the TIMSS 2015 results will make vital reading for policymakers. Of the many challenges facing regional governments, improving educational standards is among the most pressing and the most challenging.  

With youth unemployment close to 30 per cent in some areas, enabling the region’s young people to find meaningful jobs is vital. This means equipping them with the skills to compete in the global jobs market.

Despite being among the highest spenders in education in the world, and boasting some of the lowest student-to-teacher ratios, the GCC in the past has performed poorly in global rankings. In the 2011 TIMSS survey, none of the GCC states achieved the international average mark in maths or science.

Modernising state education is vital for the long-term development of the region, but will be challenging to deliver. Removing the culture of learning by rote and balancing the time spent on academic subjects with time devoted to religious instruction, touches on sensitive cultural issues. There is also the challenge of changing institutional behaviours and mindsets, and introducing innovations offered by new technologies.

The private sector will be vital to delivering change and achieving the objectives, but it must work in partnership with government, and must never lose sight that the priority is to deliver world-class education rather than profit.