Curt Rhodes

Year founded: 

Through non-formal education, mentoring and vocational training programmes, Questscope offers thousands of former dropouts a second chance at success and employment.

Focus: Education, Labour and Unemployment, Children and Youth
Geographic Area of Impact: Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Mauritania
Model: Hybrid Non-Profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 3,600 (2012)
Annual Budget: US$ 3,000,000 (2012)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 5%
Recognition: Regional Social Entrepreneur of the Year, MENA, 2011

The Middle East suffers from high rates of unemployment and social exclusion among its large youth population, a significant percentage of which do not complete secondary education. In Jordan alone the Ministry of Education predicts that 100,000 youth between ages 6-16 will drop out before reaching the tenth grade certificate level. An additional 6,000 are considered at-risk for delinquency, and 3,000 are incarcerated every year. Throughout the region there are very few, if any, opportunities at a second chance for youth that drop out of formal schooling. Questscope provides an alternative road out of poverty and alienation and into formal and vocational schooling for youth in Jordan and across the Middle East.

Innovation and Activities
Questscope designed and formalized the Arab world’s first Graduate Equivalency Diploma (GED) and certification programme for primary school dropouts. Previously, students who spent more than three years outside of the formal schooling system were legally prohibited from returning to school. With the Jordanian Ministry of Education, Questscope designed a 24-month cycle of alternative pedagogy called non-formal education (NFE), which offers dropouts a tenth grade level GED certificate regardless of the amount of time they spent away from the classroom. In addition, nearly two-thirds of those who enter NFE will continue on to a higher level of schooling, reintegrate into formal classrooms or participate in government-sponsored vocational training programmes.

Along with its non-formal education programme, Questscope implemented the Arab world’s first mentorship and education programme for incarcerated youth, and established a highly successful service-learning programme. This pairs upper class youth with disadvantaged youth for community projects and policy workshops with members of the Ministry of Education, the British Council and other policy-makers.

Questscope has a clear and rigorous commitment to evaluating its impact. In a recent randomized control trial conducted by Oxford University it demonstrated positive behavioural changes among youth enrolled in the programme. Through 2011, Questscope had: 4,900 enrolments and 2,450 graduates in its non-formal education tenth grade equivalency programme; 4,000 youth volunteers and mentors working with 3,000 disadvantaged youth; 4,000 Jordanian university students undertaking joint-service learning and research projects with disadvantaged youth; 400 government teachers trained in alternative pedagogy teaching at nearly 60 non-formal education centres around the country; and, 600 vocational training graduates, with another 600 currently enrolled.

The Entrepreneur
A resident of the Middle East for more than three decades, Curt Rhodes began his international experience as a volunteer in Indonesia in the 1970s. In 1981, he moved to Lebanon and served as Assistant Dean in the school of Public Health at the American University of Beirut. After witnessing massacres during the Lebanese civil war in the 1980s, Rhodes left academia to help provide equal access and opportunity for disadvantaged youth throughout the region. He is currently a member of the Jordanian National Council for Family Affairs, and the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Youth Unemployment.