The Chaos of Private Schools

By: Jumana Ghunaimat

تم نشره في Sun 13 March / Mar 2016. 01:13 AM
  • جمانة غنيمات

The front is raging; and its victims are of our own children in schools. The threats are mutual; between the Government which intends not to renew licenses for private schools in violation of the 2015 private schools law on one side —wherein lies a logic and application of the law, and schools on the other warning to fire thousands of teachers as a result of the Government's decision.

In the midst of this battle, the Association for Owners of Private Schools issued a press statement affirming their intention to raise tuition fees by 30 per cent, only to later go back on and withdraw the statement, as if they are trying to bend the arms of the government!

Accordingly, the Ministry of Education is waving to sue the Association, as the latter stresses the ministry has to either revoke the 2015 system for the Establishment and Licensing of Private and Foreign Educational Institutions system, or limit its application to institutions established following the decision’s formalisation only.

For their part, the Ministry asserts that “they have given violating private educational institutions two years according to the new system to straighten out their status, especially in terms of buildings, halls, and squares, with the exception of student numbers exceeding licensed capacities”. Notably, the new system categorises private schools according to their locations, available facilities, and the quality of basic and additional programmes accessible to students, and the qualifications of their staff.

The new system sets a ceiling for semester tuitions in accord to the categories, so that they fit the level of services and facilities offered in schools to students. It also includes provisional terms to safeguard the rights of workers in these schools, having these rights being violated for many years in the absence of governmental controls; particularly in relating to minimum teacher wages.

The government's interests off this new regulation is noble; that is to protect parents from the exploitation and incursion of schools —financially, especially now as we hear about private schools whose only advantages are transportation, albeit not even safe, without providing the minimum necessary school environment conducive to learning and education!

The decline in the level of services in some private schools, and the issuance of "the new system" by the government, concurs with increasing complaints by parents on school fees being annually raised without justification, especially after oil prices dropped by up to 70% over the past period. This, mindfully, necessitates setting standards to regulate and address the issue, as well as the level of services provided to students, both at the same time.

The educational outputs of some of these schools are disastrous; and in considerable quantities as well, especially in remote provinces and governorates, without any value added to say the least. These distortions in the schooling system have to be addressed and processed through reforms at a level that meets and alleviates that of teacher and students, altogether.

Clearly, I am surprised by the Association for Owners of Private Schools’ for setting such an attack on the new system and by their refusal, because logic dictates that they side to the Ministry’s trench when it comes to this aspect; for it is in their interest to improve the image of the Association’s members before the public, rather than standing by some owners of private schools in their endeavour to attain demands that carry injustices to students as well as to their families.

I do not think that the Ministry of Education has a general negative position on private education. Contrarily, they are seeking to address the distortions menacing the private schools sector and rectify some practices that do not reflect the sense of responsibility that is ought to be among those who commit them. Private education is an integral part of the structure of the educational system in Jordan, and it is of interest to the Ministry, obviously, that the sector is bettered not weakened, let alone eliminated.

Honestly; shutting down the dozens of violating schools hurts mainly the owners, despite the temporary damages incurred by parents, having to look for new schools. Because the need, however, for Private School —in the very first place, recedes with the decrease of the quality of their educational outputs, conditional of course to the preservation of the rights of teachers.

The chaos of the private school education has become a difficult reality in the absence of a government that neglected the organization of this important sector, serving hundreds of thousands of students; whose owners, regardless, make a fortune in return for the services these schools supposedly provide.

Should the government go back on their decision to enforce the new system, it would be a step backwards. More so, it would be a submission to terms insisted upon by the violators among owners of private schools —specifically. And this is the last thing we need today, as it undermines the basis of the initiative to reform education.