Educational Challenges in Palestine

Written by Mayeda Tayyab

Photo by Jorge Fernández Salas on Unsplash

Education is a human right that should be accessible to all individuals, regardless of their circumstances. In Palestine, the quality and accessibility of education have been significantly impacted by ongoing occupation and colonization, political instability, and economic challenges. This article will discuss the current state of education in Palestine, focusing on the quality and accessibility of education. The article will also explore the challenges that students and educators face and examine some of the initiatives that have been implemented to improve the quality and accessibility of education in Palestine.

The Palestinian territories include the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which are geographically separated from each other. The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) is responsible for the education system in the West Bank, while Hamas controls the education system in Gaza. In the last 27 years, Palestinian educators have had to overcome severe problems due to the Israeli occupation[1] – including but not limited to frequent closures of educational institutions and the banning of textbooks and other educational materials. Education in Palestine is compulsory and free for children between the ages of six and fifteen. In 2018 UNICEF reported that across the state of Palestine, 95.4 percent of children were enrolled in formal education[2]. However, out of all the children in school in Palestine, nearly 25 percent of boys and 7 percent of girls drop out after the age of 15[3]. Furthermore, 22.5 percent of boys and 30 percent of girls with a disability, between the ages of 6 and 15 years, have never enrolled in school[4]. This is due to increasing poverty and the Israeli occupation of Palestine which has a significant impact on the accessibility and the quality of education available to children.

Quality of Education

The quality of education in Palestine has been greatly affected by the ongoing occupation, colonization, and political instability. During the first 10 years of the Israeli occupation, no new schools were built in Palestine, significantly hindering the expansion of educational facilities in the region, and resulting in the decline of the number of educators available in contrast to the increasing population[5]. Due to the lack in the number of educational facilities and thus educational staff, classrooms have become overcrowded with up to 40 to 60 students in a single classroom, making it difficult for teachers to provide individual attention and support to each student[6]. This can result in students falling behind and struggling to keep up with their peers.

According to a report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization[7], the shortage of resources and facilities is another one of the main challenges facing education in Palestine. Many schools lack basic amenities such as textbooks, computers, and laboratories, and many teachers are not properly trained and do not have access to modern teaching methods and technologies. Lack of funding and the banning of books and educational materials limit the resources available to students in school libraries[8]. Many extracurricular activities which are essential for the social and cultural development of students have been banned by Israeli authorities. Due to this lack of facilities, almost half the Palestinian children in East Jerusalem are forced to attend private or unofficial educational institutions[9].

The quality of education in Palestine is also affected by the lack of political stability and safety in the region. According to a report by Save the Children (2020)[10], the ongoing conflict and political instability have resulted in frequent school closures and disruptions to the academic calendar, leading to students missing out on valuable classroom time and falling behind in their studies. Almost half a million children in Palestine require humanitarian assistance to access quality education[11]. There are frequent closures of the Gaza Strip, and West Bank – including East Jerusalem – during times of violent attacks by Israel, restricting any physical access to daily activities and essential services such as health care, water, and education[12]. Children also regularly experience fear of violence and intimidation as they must frequently pass through checkpoints or commute by settlements to get to schools located in high-risk areas[13].

Accessibility of Education

The accessibility of education in Palestine is affected by several factors. According to a report by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) (2021)[14], one of the main factors affecting accessibility is the physical separation between the West Bank and Gaza. This separation makes it difficult for students to move between the two regions and can result in students missing out on educational opportunities and resources that are only available in one region. Children usually must travel long distances to get to school. A parent talking about his 10-year-old son living in the Shuafat refugee camp said that his son spends four hours each day traveling to and from school for the monthly cost of £85, while his other child takes a three-hour journey to a different school[15]. As discussed earlier, the impact of the Israeli occupation on access to education is also a significant factor. According to a report by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) (2021)[16], students and teachers often face checkpoints, roadblocks, and other obstacles. In some cases, schools have been closed or destroyed during military operations, resulting in the displacement of students and teachers.

Palestinian girls at a school in Ramallah. – Photo by Samar Hazboun, UNWomen

The economic situation in Palestine also affects the accessibility of education. According to UNICEF (2018), many families struggle to afford the costs associated with education, such as transportation, school supplies, and uniforms[17]. This can result in children being unable to attend school or dropping out early. Financial difficulties are one of the primary reasons for Palestinian children dropping out of school. However, children in Palestine also face many other serious issues such as child labor (3% of the total number of children between the ages of 10-17 years were found to be taking on paid and unpaid labor work), early marriages (out of all the marriages registered in 2018, 20% were of girls under the age of 18), and imprisonment (in 2019, 889 cases of detention of children under the age of 18 in Israeli prisons were reported[18].

Furthermore, access to education is particularly challenging for girls and children with disabilities. While there has been some progress in recent years, cultural and social barriers continue to prevent many girls from attending school. According to UNICEF, the net enrollment rate for girls in primary education in Palestine is 96%, compared to 98% for boys[19]. An example of this is early marriage as highlighted above. In contrast of 20% of marriages reported in 2018 involved girls under 18, and only 1% of these marriages included boys under the age of 18. This shows the lack of importance given to the education of women and girls compared to those of boys and men, who might be experiencing societal and familial pressures to get married and start families at the prime age for receiving secondary and higher education. In addition, children with disabilities face numerous barriers to accessing education, including the lack of specialized facilities and trained teachers.

Efforts to Improve the Quality and Accessibility of Education

Efforts to improve the quality and accessibility of education in Palestine have focused on increasing access to educational resources and reducing the financial burden on families. According to a report by the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education[20], the government has implemented policies aimed at providing free education and increasing access to scholarships and financial aid. NGOs and international organizations have also provided support for the development of new schools and the renovation of existing schools, as well as providing teaching materials and training for teachers. Although there is still a long way to tackle societal and political issues that are hindering access to education for children in Palestine and threatening their safety, steps are being taken to at least find solutions to economic struggles.


In conclusion, the quality and accessibility of education in Palestine are significantly impacted by ongoing conflict, political instability, and economic challenges. Palestinian students and educators face numerous challenges that affect the quality of education they receive, including a shortage of resources and facilities, high student-to-teacher ratios, frequent school closures and disruptions to academic life, and the general threat to their physical safety. Although efforts are being made to tackle the economic issues and developing proper infrastructure for educational institutions, the safety threat and issues related to the ongoing colonization of Palestine will continue to persist until the achievement of permanent political stability in the region.




[1] Abu-Duhou, I. (1996). Schools in Palestine under the Occupation and the Palestinian National Authority. Palestine-Israel Journal of Politics, Economics and Culture, 3(1). Available at:

[2] UNICEF. (2018). State of Palestine: Out-of-school children. Available at:  

[3] See footnote 2.

[4] see footnote 2.

[5] See footnote 1

[6] See footnote 1

[7] UNESCO. (2020). Education in Palestine. Available from

[8] See footnote 1

[9] Sherwood, H. (2010). Palestinian children in East Jerusalem face classroom shortage, says report. Available at:

[10] Save the Children. (2020). Danger is Our Reality: The impact of conflict and the occupation on education in the West Bank of the occupied Palestinian territory. Retrieved from:

[11] OCHA. (2017). Occupied Palestinian Territory: Humanitarian Needs Overview 2018, November 2017. Available at:

[12] See footnote 2

[13] See footnote 2

[14] UNRWA. (2021). Annual Operational Report 2021. Retrieved from:

[15] See footnote 9

[16] International Committee of the Red Cross. (2021). ICRC Annual report 2021. Available at:

[17] See footnote 2

[18] Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. (2020). Palestine. Available at:

[19] See footnote 2

[20] Ministry of Education and Higher Education. (2017). Education Sector Strategic Plan 2017-2022. Available at:

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