Thursday, November 01, 2007

Education, Reform and Development

I was really disturbed when I read Ayman Safadi’s comments in the Jordan Times Arabic press commentaries section (Jordan Times, Monday Oct. 29) in which he talks about the regression of education in Jordan, particularly in the universities. Unfortunately, I have heard many of the same complaints many times from people from all walks of life. It seems to me that the top priority of any government in regard to development should be education, education and education. One can build all the roads, bridges, high-rises, hospitals, nuclear power stations etc. in a country, but without smart, trained, thinking people the country will develop artificially and not in the way which is really desired.

For Jordan with its limited resources extra effort must be put into developing the quality of education in its schools. This is not to say that good schools don't exist. But they are generally for the elite. The large majority of students attend schools with poorly qualified teachers or even go without teachers and textbooks well into the school year. They face a limited curriculum in which they are forced to take certain subjects and most of their learning seems to center around memorizing. The debate in Jordan about schools often focuses on such issues as cost, the administration, class size, whether it is co-educational or not, and such things as the books used. Judgment of the school depends largely on testing results rather than on the actual process of education within the school. What needs to be debated is how what goes on in the classroom affects the minds of the pupils. The whole purpose of education is to help students learn to think and understand what they learn and then be able to apply that knowledge to make good judgments or innovative decisions regarding new situations. For this to happen, highly qualified teachers, an open curriculum, and an atmosphere that encourages real thinking, interaction with teachers and other students, and creativity is absolutely paramount.

Over the years there has been much talk of reforming the educational system in Jordan. But I fear there has been far more talk than action. If what Mr. Safadi writes is true, it is clear that reform in education is desperately needed and there must be a deep and honest look into what kind of citizens we want our education system to produce. Anybody can memorize the facts and figures related to engineering, biology, chemistry etc. but that’s not enough to develop prosperous and thriving communities. Students must also be able to connect the facts they learn to this world in terms of innovation, social responsibilities, ethics, and values. This needs high quality education starting in the primary schools and going on up through university; education where students can obtain the necessary knowledge, then develop critical thinking to understand it and thus be able to apply it. How well Jordan is able to provide this will ultimately determine much of its success in development............z


Anonymous Anonymous said...

the educational crisis started few years ago when some Jordanians students from prominent regime families and from key tribes who never attended college, or failed their exams were showing up in career placement offices with their fake PhDs and their Masters and their BS degrees. These degrees were not bought, they were orderd by high ranking officials as part of a political favor exchanges. then these "graduates" went on to assume sensative government positions or took up jobs in the gulf. in jordan, these "graduates" lead the country into one disaster after another. in the Gulf, the reputation of a Jordanian university degree has plummeted, hurting legitimate Jordanian students who worked hard for their degrees and wasted their parents' life savings. only to find that their degrees are not accepted in most of prestigious gulf comapnies. why, because some corrupt high-ranking government guy ordered the university to issue bona fide college degrees and transcript of 3.5 GPA to those kids.

How many of those fake degree holders are out there in jordan?

some estimate over 20,000.


Thursday, November 01, 2007  
Blogger MommaBean said...

Z, thanks for bringing attention to this. It is an area of concern for me as well. In my work here, I've met a number of Engineers. They seem to rank themselves as better or worse depending on what type of engineer they are. And the "best" have absolutely no ability to apply any learning. They are unable to construct a sound argument to validate their viewpoint. In short, they've been trained to take 1+2=3 tests and not understand what 1 is, 2 is or why it would = 3... :)

Another thing that I find absolutely appalling is that these graduates of 4 year institutions have no concept of copyright and plagiarism. One of the young boys I worked with previously sent the entire company a paper he had "written" for one of his courses. It was 3 pages of direct quotes from books and magazine articles with no quotation marks in the thing. He attributed (at the end) the names of the sources. And, he didn't even string them together in a logical fashion. Don't worry, he got 8/10 in his class for the work.

I'm with you, I worry greatly over this educational system (beginning with the overemphasis on performance of a single test based on memorization) and the impact that has on Jordan's ability to thrive in this new global marketplace.

Friday, November 02, 2007  

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