The Middle Class and the Predicament of Education

By Mohammad Aburumman

تم نشره في Thu 21 September / Sep 2017. 12:00 AM
  • Mohammad Aburumman

In the last few years, evidence indicated an increase reverse student influx, from private to public schools, as opposed to the other way around.

This year however, the number of students leaving private schools for public ones was shocking, and has put the government in an unexpected predicament.

In the overall, the scale of reverse student influx has exceeded the average rate, by a landslide, reports indicate.

Naturally, this being so sudden, the unprepared Ministry of Education was taken by surprise.

More so, the influx is still on the rise.

Recently, the Ministry uncomplicated and lightened up several transfer procedures. Parents no longer have to register their children at the respective department.

Now, parents can just transfer their students via cross-references, from one school principal to another.

Since the time limits for transfer have also been removed, dozens of thousands of children have been transferred in just the last few days.

According to the Ministry of Education’s spokesperson, Walid Jallad, the figures are constantly increasing, by the day.

So far, in 17 districts, out of 42, nearly 23 thousand students have transferred from private schools to public schools, excluding UNRWA schools, he said.

As far as figures go, these are not final.

Pending the final total count of transferring students in all 42 districts this year, we’ll soon find that the reverse student influx has indeed exceeded all expectations.

What does this mean?

Does this indicate a sudden leap in public sector education over the last few years?

Sadly, the answer is no.

Nothing indicates public schooling systems are doing any better today than they did over the last decade or so.

On contraire, public schooling has deteriorated at a near exponential rate in these recent years.

Part of it is due to the Syrian refugee crisis, which has strained the resources and infrastructures of our public schools.

In some schools, there are nearly 50 students per class.

Needless to say, this does not help the quality of the education process, at all.

Typically, a lot of it has to do with the economy.

Pressures weighing down on the Middle Class have drained the average household’s annual income.

Even though middle class families would rather enrol their children in private schools, and for an abundance of good reasons, most of them can no longer afford it.

As inflation increases, the purchasing power of the Jordanian dinar declines.

Subsequently, so does the actual value of the middle class household’s bulk income.

The fact is that many families are forced into transferring the children, by virtue of the economy.

Personally, I have had the chance to speak with several families whose children have been transferred to the public sector. Most of them are worried that their children will not be able to adapt to the change.

Of course, the change they speak of goes beyond the education process itself to the overall education environment, including infrastructure and facilities.

No one can deny there is a fundamental difference in the quality and level of education services provided, but more so is the deterioration in the public sector’s infrastructure.

Principally speaking, public schooling should set the standard for education; a minimal requirement of quality.

For us, the middle class, we would rather not exhaust our limited incomes on education.

But so long as we can afford it, and the public schools do not offer even the bear minimum for a decent education, naturally, we would seek quality education for our children. In healthier, safer, and more constructive environments.

The truth is; we all know that public education is spiralling down, on every measurable level.

Meanwhile, as we have underlined in a previous article, waiting for the government to pump in more resources into the public education sector is a waste of time; a daydream, at least at this point.

Most of the Ministry’s budget goes to salaries.

So what options do we have when we can no longer afford private sector schools, the middle class that is?!

Obviously, the state has taken an exceptionally unprecedented interest in developing curriculums and teachers.

More so, I am confident that we are on the verge of qualitative leap in these regards.

However, our public schools’ infrastructures are shameful, and our resources too tight to launch an overall rehabilitation project for the buildings and school facilities. Notwithstanding upgrading the teachers’ pay-scales to encourage their constructive and dedicated commitment to education.

There is an outstanding gap in the average teacher’s salary!

I think it is time that we, the middle class, alongside the civil society and private sector, stand up for our interests and the future of our upcoming generations.

We need to step up to the challenge and step in for our public schools. We can spare no effort in the endeavour of developing the public education sector, to make quality education affordable and accessible, instead of turning our back to the reality of our society.

Perhaps it now the perfect moment to intervene to salvage public schools and public education, instead of draining our incomes on private education!

This article is an edited translation of the Arabic version, published by AlGhad.