Education Within the Middle East and North African Prisons: Challenges and Opportunities

Education Within the Middle East and North African Prisons: Challenges and Opportunities

Ahmad Samarji (Phoenicia University, Lebanon)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2909-5.ch007


This chapter explores prison education in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) with a particular focus on Lebanese prisons and prison education. The chapter takes Roumieh prison in Lebanon as a case study to operationalize Knowles' theory of andragogy. The chapter discusses the nature and types of curricula, learner-facilitator relationship, educational delivery methods and security favored by Knowles' theory that can promote a fairly successful prison education practice in MENA. In particular, the chapter submits that the application of Knowles' theory to prison education in MENA would lead ultimately to prisoners grieving over lost opportunities in past years, come to terms with their present life, and become intrinsically motivated to correctly invest in their own future.
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The following constitutes the background information that is relevant to the theme of this chapter.

Operational Definition

This chapter adopts a working definition of prison education as the education of adult prisoners. This definition excludes juvenile prisoners. The rationale behind such exclusion is that the education required for juveniles differs from that required for adult prisoners.

Distinguishing itself from pedagogy (the art and science of teaching children), andragogy situates itself in adult education. The roots of the terms andragogy emerges from a Greek origin meaning “leader of” (agogos) “man, not boy” (aner from the stem andra) (Bartle, 2015). Although the terminology was first used in 1833 by Alexander Kapp (a German high school teacher) and later in 1926 by Lindeman (Biao, 2006; Reishchmann, 2004), it was Malcolm Knowles (1968, 1977, 1980, 1989, 1990) who, more recently, popularized the use of ‘andragogy’ as a theory of adult learning. Knowles notion of andragogy emerged from his strong belief that adults cannot be treated in the same manner as we treat children especially when it comes to education. He argued that adult learners are distinct in their experiences, expectations, and needs.

Knowles set out six assumptions in relation to andragogy (St. Clair, 2002, p. 3), starting with four initial assumptions

  • 1.

    Teachers have a responsibility to help adults in the normal movement from dependency toward increasing self-directedness.

  • 2.

    Adults have an ever-increasing reservoir of experience that is a rich resource for learning.

  • 3.

    People are ready to learn something when it will help them to cope with real-life tasks or problems.

  • 4.

    Learners see education as a means to develop increased competence (St. Clair, 2002).

Two additional assumptions were later added:

  • 5.

    Adults need to know the reason to learn something.

  • 6.

    The most potent motivators for adult learning are internal, such as self-esteem (St. Clair, 2002; Knowles, Holton, and Swanson, 1998)

Informed by Knowles, we can assume that adult learners possess richer experiences than children and hence they can more relate content to their own past experiences. Adults would start their learning journey more pre-informed by such past experiences. Adult learners have high expectations in terms of playing a more influential role on “what” they learn and “how” they learn it. Based on their past experiences and needs as adults, they set for themselves such expectations that ultimately enable them to influence the direction of their learning process.

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