Here’s the first blog on this subject from Professor Trevor Male who is beginning a project in Jordan. Stay tuned for more.
I am in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan this week starting work on a project funded by the Queen Rania Foundation. The task is to examine best practice worldwide and produce a set of options for school councils and parental engagement, which form part of an education strategic plan for this nation.
Jordan is a small(ish) landlocked country bordering Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Israel. In July 2017, the World Bank re-classified Jordan from an upper-middle income country to a lower middle- income country. There are no natural mineral resources or other natural advantages, so its future prosperity will depend almost entirely on the talents and enterprise of its people. As of 2010 (the latest estimate available), approximately 14% of the population lived below the national poverty line on a long-term basis, while almost a third experienced transient poverty. This has had multiple effects on education as children from poor families may be less likely to attend pre-primary education and the burdens of indirect costs (clothing, transportation costs and the need to work to supplement family income) may contribute to non-enrolment, non-attendance and even drop out at the primary and secondary levels.
In addition to these factors, Jordan faces challenges associated with the huge influx of refugees fleeing the violence in Syria and now provides support for more than 1.3 million Syrians. As would be expected this does place extra demands on the education system and labour market, in addition to other national services and infrastructure. The challenges are compounded by the continuing rapid expansion in Jordan’s population, which is expected to increase by 1.4% per year for the next decade. Consequently, increasing demands for school and further education places are feeding growing numbers into the labour market. Whilst this expansion provides a unique economic opportunity for Jordan because the working population will exceed the dependent population for the next twenty years. Nevertheless, based on current projections, there will be a need for over 660,000 new jobs over the next decade, if the national target of 8% unemployment is to be met. One consequence of this situation is that the kingdom developed a National Human Resource Development Strategy in 2016 which seeks “to invest in our citizens’ education and training to create a generation of forward-looking young people, who are equipped with the skills necessary to analyse, innovate and excel” (King Abdullah II).
Education has been determined as the key to transforming these demographic challenges into opportunities for growth and development, with significant changes being required across Jordan’s education and training systems. In turn this led the Ministry of Education to devise a strategic plan to address these issues, which was published in 2018. This is where I appear in the picture as providing “the consultancy service that an international expert will be providing to the Ministry of Education (MoE) to support its goals of having all schools actively engaging parents and working in active partnership with their local communities by 2022”.
What I have discovered since arriving here just two days ago has been unexpected as I had not done my homework on this country and assumed ‘Middle East = must be rich’. So yesterday I reviewed the documents and today talked to people who work in the schools’ sector. What I witnessed here is a huge lack of building provision, specially to accommodate Syrian refugee children many of whom are taught in the camps, or in evening schools. It is not uncommon for schools to be in inadequate rented accommodation and to be double shift i.e. one building with two school populations. They are also short of materials and quality teachers.
Patently the country is not rich and thus sits right in the frame of reference provided by this blogging service in that here is a country determined to overcome social injustice, even when the increase in poverty can be blamed partly on unexpected immigration. Despite the impact of the influx of Syrian students, however, the Ministry is committed to ensure access and equality towards the vision of “Education for All”, equity in the realms of both gender and special needs, improving enrolment rates, accommodating all age groups, providing a stimulating educational environment and developing awareness and health programmes. It has been a generous response by this largely Muslim population that puts Brexiteers to shame.