In the GCC, where class sizes are small, literacy levels are higher than the global average. In North Africa, where the pupil-teacher ratio is nearly twice as high, literacy rates are below the global average, especially among the female population.
Yet enrolment in tertiary education is far higher in North Africa than in the GCC. Whereas school leavers in the GCC mostly expect to find well-paid government jobs, young people in North Africa recognise higher education as a route to better work, higher salaries and social mobility. The problem is that in recent years, the number of jobs being created has failed to keep pace with the increasing amount of youngsters entering the labour market, a situation made worse by the financial crisis sapping demand for goods and services from European trading partners.
That the Arab Uprisings began in North Africa, triggered by one mans frustration at a lack of employment prospects, is no surprise.
In the GCC, the challenge is altogether different. Governments are encouraging the development of the private sector and employment of nationals, but companies are finding students ill-prepared for corporate life.