This case study examines UNICEF's engagement with the Palestinian National Authority in strengthening education quality through child-friendly schools (CFS), from 2003–2010. It reviews and analyses the CFS approach as adapted to the challenging Palestinian context of occupation and chronic emergency. It seeks to identify what is working and what has not, with a view towards planning future initiatives in the Occupied Palestinian Territory as well as sharing lessons learned with others who are working in a similar context. The study used qualitative and quantitative data, collected through interviews with key actors in the initiative as well as field visits, observations and a desk review of documentation.

Much has been accomplished since 2003 in promoting child-friendly schools in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and valuable experience has been gained. During implementation, the CFS approach has demonstrated its intrinsic value of being adaptable to circumstances ranging from chronic to acute emergency to development. The Palestinian experience provides good examples of innovative ways to integrate child-friendly schools into an emergency education response and to maintain quality education by turning schools, homes and communities into quality learning environments.

The CFS approach has been recognized by the Palestinian Authority as a major mechanism for responding to multiple issues affecting education quality. Early buy-in and ownership of the initiative contributed to uptake throughout the territory and at the individual school level. Well-planned and continuous capacity development by the Palestinian Authority and UNICEF contributed to building a critical mass of education actors who are now knowledgeable on the approach and skilled in its implementation. Although individual capacities have been strengthened at all levels, greater efforts are needed to institutionalize child-friendly schools through improving school management and building 'school ethos,' an environment that promotes students' academic achievement.

The 2010 evaluation of the pilot phase1 indicates that a positive impact has been made in terms of improved learning environment, improved teaching practices, increased motivation among students for learning and strengthened school-community links. Less successful, however, were attempts to create protective environments in schools, reduce violence and encourage greater student participation.

The pilot experience also highlighted the need for more integrated, cross-sectoral programming within the Ministry of Education and Higher Education as well as UNICEF, and for greater collaboration with other development partners as the approach is taken to scale and mainstreamed across the education system. Any plan for scaling up will need to be designed with stakeholders' involvement and support, and its implementation will require development partners to be engaged in both technical and financial support.

Pilot implementation of child-friendly schools in the Occupied Palestinian Territory has created momentum for strengthening efforts throughout the territory to reverse the trend UNICEF CFS Case Study: Occupied Palestinian Territory, 2011 of declining learning achievement and increasing school dropout. The next few years will be critical for the CFS approach to really take root in the education system. The key to success is an ability to use the CFS framework to establish policies and standards – enabling activities and interventions that meet the needs of individual schools in both emergency and non-emergency situations.

It is hoped that with strong Palestinian ownership of the process, solid capacity already created on the ground, and continued support from UNICEF and other partners, child-friendly education can be brought to all schools in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and will ensure quality education for all Palestinian children.


1 Optimum, 'Evaluation of the Child-Friendly Schools Project in the Occupied Palestinian Territories' (Draft), 2010.