Good morning everyone. Thank you so much for being with us here today, Minister Akram Chehayeb, Director General Fadi Yaraq, and Dr. Nada Oweijane. And a warm thank you to the leadership at Uruguay Public School for having us. It was great to be greeted outside by the Scouts and so lovely to see their faces.
As the largest donor to Lebanon, I do a lot of opening and closing ceremonies. While we know these programs are excellent and have great impact, sometimes it is hard to see the effect, especially in economic growth or building capacity or raising awareness. But today I see exactly what results we are having and hope you can, too. I see a lot of enthusiastic children whose reading skills have dramatically improved who love coming to school because being able to read has opened up vast new worlds for them.
In partnership with the Ministry of Education, we have seen great success with this program, called “Quality Instruction Toward Access and Basic Education Improvement” or QITABI. Over four years, QITABI has helped the Ministry of Education and the Center for Educational Research and Development improve reading education and reading results nationwide.
Reading opens the door to education, to prosperity, and to economic growth which is why QITABI focuses on reading in Arabic—the primary language of your children. And the results demonstrate the success of the program. Ladies and gentlemen, I would really like to stop here and say something I don’t often get to say. We saw a 79% improvement in reading levels among the 10,000 children tested. This is a result I can only dream of in many other projects and I think you and the Minister should be really proud of this.
In the project, we also focused on capacity building and trained over 1,000 teachers in the most up-to-date teaching practices, including using technology in the classroom. And we distributed over 200,000 Arabic storybooks throughout public schools. And when children are taught how to read, and have engaging books available at their reading level, they love to read and learning becomes fun and all the more effective.
QITABI has had other effects too, as Lebanon’s excellent public school teachers are thriving with the new tools they have acquired under this new approach. Beyond the classroom, QITABI, along with the Ministry of Education and CERD, have developed national reading benchmarks to measure progress and assess teaching effectiveness. QITABI is now deploying these benchmarks to all public schools, ensuring current and future students continue to benefit from the program.
So, because we are so excited about the great success of QITABI 1, we are thrilled to be here today to launch QITABI 2. This $90 million investment is twice the size of the original program. An additional $90 million will enable us to expand reading instruction to other languages, promote new approaches to learning math, and equip schools with more resources. Most importantly, we are creating an inclusive, consistent learning environment for every child, in every public school.
America’s partnership with Lebanon’s education sector dates back over 150 years, making education a cornerstone of our shared values all this time. Since 2006, the United States has committed almost $400 million for initiatives to support generations of young learners, from elementary school levels all the way through university.
We are very proud of these successes, Mr. Minister. Our joint investment in Lebanon’s next generation would not have been possible without the enlightened leadership of the Ministry, yourself, your team as well as the previous Minister, Minister Hamadeh and his team. Their active partnership and openness to incorporating new teaching methods into the curricula are why Lebanon’s public schools have seen this dramatic improvement. Together, we are making Lebanon’s public schools the institution parents require and expect, and children deserve.
So, I look forward to continuing these improvements through QITABI 2. And I am really happy to have everyone here with us today to celebrate this new commitment from the United States. We look forward to continuing this journey with you, Mr. Minister.