Stuck in Diagnosis: The Predicament of Our Education

Numerous educationalists and specialists in various fields spoke at the Jordan Agenda 2018 convention, organised by the University of Jordan’s Strategic Study Centre.

Four of the speakers, gave a heart aching diagnosis of the education sector’s situation in Jordan; Education Minister Omar Razzaz, AP Haifaa Najjar, President of the University of Jordan Dr Azmi Mahafzeh and the Chairman of the American University’s board of trustees, Dr Victor Billeh.

Following are some quotations to highlight select segments of the speakers’ statements.

Dr Razzaz: “Governance in the education sector and schools is missing. We are living in a split reality; an abundance of education and so little learning.”

Najjar: “We have lost our competitiveness with the rest of the world because we have lost our dreams. The dream is gone, and with it, the critical thought and reason. In the end, the education sector was handed over to an alliance that has destroyed whatever reason left in our education system.”

Dr Mahafzah: “Jordanian universities are not independent. National human resources development strategies have done nothing so far. There are currently nearly 1000 identical Bachelors programmes. Admission rates at 85 per cent of Jordan’s high school graduates, most of them into saturated majors and fields.”

Dr Billeh: “Accountability and governance is missing in education. Regulation, policies and systems are unclear, not to mention undocumented. The output of this ambiguity will always be ambiguous.”

I was unable, personally, to attend this particularly this rich session. I rely primarily in my analysis on the report by colleague Haitham Hassan at AlGhad.

Nonetheless, there is heartache beyond description in the specialists’ diagnosis. More than anything, it is the fact that everything they said is both true and known to all of us.

In short, what the speakers are trying to say is that we have not moved a single slot forward in decades. Various specialists and educationalists have been saying the same things for nearly twenty years now, at least.

Strategies and plans were laid to help right what went wrong, but alas, not of it actualised.

Yes, we have made some improvements, but not enough to say we have progressed any bit. We are far from done.

The human resources strategy, ratified last year, is our best blueprint for developing and reforming the education sector, within ten years.

Still, as critical as the strategy is, we have not yet been able to build consensus on it. Put aside its strict implementation to a tight and exact timeframe.

All four speakers are decision makers.

However, it is evident from their speeches that they are frustrated, or even helpless, to an extent.

Are they exaggerating? Maybe. But the issues they point to are as solid and real as can be; we all know about them.

For years, we have wondered why this vast university admission basis is not suspended. Thousands of students go to universities and graduate majoring in fields that are saturated only to find themselves unemployed. What is stopping prestigious Jordanian universities from restructuring and replacing some of their programmes with technical and vocational programmes the market actually needs?!

As many as 85 per cent of high school graduates in Jordan go to university! This does not happen even in the world’s most advanced countries! As a result, the University of Jordan, which has a maximum capacity of 20 thousand students, teaches some 45 thousand. Surely this affects the quality of the output?

Every year, the uniform admissions committee brags about how many high school graduates have been admitted into university. What they fail to realise is the scale of the calamity, the unemployment, right around the curb for so many Jordanians.

When will we get through the diagnosis phase to actually tackling the problem?!

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

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