Jordan’s Education Slump

تم نشره في Mon 27 June / Jun 2016. 12:00 AM - آخر تعديل في Mon 27 June / Jun 2016. 10:21 PM
  • Young Girls Studying for an Exam, Jordan - (Wikipedia)

Written by: Firas Salameh
Edited by: A.r. Bazian

It is quite common in Jordan – and the wider region – to make significant discoveries following tragic events. For instance, the destruction of the World Trade Centre in 2003, unveiled the global impact of terrorism. Similarly, in 2011, at a time when unprecedented waves of violence awashed nearly the entire region, we have also learnt that Daesh (another word for ISIL/ISIS) have hijacked our Islamic values to promote extremism. Oppositely, Daesh is also behind a recent discovery: the collapse of our education system.

Almost 15 years ago, when former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, gave his famous education manifesto speech, his preposition to drive development in a range of areas was quite simple: “Education, Education, Education”. It is hard to envisage the exhilaration that filled the University of Southampton during that moment. Wouldn’t it be worthwhile to focus on the new government’s plans to improve education? If we invested our thoughts and intelligence to demand a major upgrade in Jordan’s education system, we would be more responsible citizens.

Undoubtedly, improving education at this point in time seems as important as preserving our national security. Our education system and its development has been neglected for decades. And before it is too late, it is prudent to acknowledge that the problem does not lie in the lack of education or learning facilities. The problem exists within the framework of our own education system, and the very principles that define it.

According to the UNESCO World Data, Jordan’s basic national education aims are underpinned by a broad range of characteristics, the first being, “to be consciously acquainted with the history, principles and values of Islam, incorporating them into their (students) character and behaviour.”

So, in principle, Jordan’s education sector is built upon and governed by Islamic values and principles. But has this system really worked? This values-induced system has repeatedly failed, and we owe it to future generations to review and amend these principles as quickly as possible.

Perhaps, IIM university professor Debashis Chatterjee’s view on the concept of learning can give us a fresh perspective on being consciously acquainted, in which “learning is the process of enlarging the limits of perception. And that “when this light of consciousness is conditioned by our pre-conceived ideas about reality, our perceptions become limited.”

Some of the remarks I kept record of interviewing former public school pupils do somewhat outline problems within our education system; successful academic performance predominantly depends on the process of memorising material, the curricula are also repetitive in nature. Yet, paramount to those are issues relating to creativity, encouraging sports, and debate. Creativity is —perhaps deliberately— stifled, and sports facilities are sometimes only used when a school hosts the Minister of Education on an inspection visit. 

Music, which is “perceived” to run counter to Islamic values and principles that inform the education system, is virtually non-existent, and music classes do not form part of most public schools’ weekly programme. Research-based assignments only account for 10 percent of specific modules. Research papers are not thoroughly graded and students usually receive identical scores for research coursework. Libraries are often closed, because the librarian on duty opts for teatime with colleagues.

Public schools passively contribute to increasing instances of harassment within our safe and secure communities. Gender-Segregated schools (or single-sex schools) undermine chances of enhancing male-female integration. Single-sex education also has adverse effects on men’s behaviour towards girls. 

Education must work to improve the future of citizens, allowing them to give back to their societies. A new, enhanced education system will also directly contribute to eliminating extremist ideologies within Jordan’s communities and protect the long-term safety and security of the Country. Indeed, improving the education system will also innovate the economy and raise productivity, on the long run.

There are far too many pessimists in Jordan. We have to prove them wrong by striving to provide high standards of education for all. Those who believe in restricting the best education to a few are partly responsible for the deterioration of our education system.

In contrast, last month, a wave of student protesters emerged across the USA, demanding for greater faculty diversity. Their motive is simply humane; it is the result of enlarged perceptions and a commitment to fostering equal opportunities for all Americans.

I wonder what it would take for Jordan’s students to demand greater, excellent education for all!