AMMONNEWS - Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah, on Wednesday, called for turning education reform into a national priority and a long-standing popular demand by the Jordanian people, explaining that it is the foundation on which security, national identity, and a strong economy lie.
The Queen made these remarks during a discussion with youth from Jordan Volunteers (JV) and members of the National Committee for Human Resource Development Committee (HRD) at the Al Hussein Business Park in Amman, about the impact of education on the job market future and employment.
Her Majesty also stressed on the importance of honesty and openness in acknowledging the challenges Jordan’s education sector faces, in order to enhance active and collective participation by all to revamp it.
The Queen added that the time is ripe for the participation of Jordanians as key stakeholders in education reform, with the new academic year and a parliamentary election around the corner.
According to Her Majesty, huge strides need to be made in vocational training offered by schools in order to meet the needs of the job market. She referred to the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts, which was initially met with disapproval, but quickly attracted youth for its ability to provide excellent job opportunities to its graduates.
She also stressed that progress and development mean being open to outside experiences and applying successful education reform plans used abroad in Jordan, in a way that preserves local traditions and values.
The Queen listened to youth participants describe their individual qualms about the current reality of education in the country, as well as their recommendations for improvement.
They discussed the dire need for revamping school curricula to meet present-day needs and standards.
They also stressed on the importance of reassessing the teacher-hiring process, explaining that teachers are currently being hired based on when they submitted their applications to the Civil Service Bureau, rather than on their qualifications.
HRD Committee members explained that national and international studies have proven that good teachers must receive pre-service training and regular on-the-job training.
The Queen said that a specialized academy has been established to train future teachers on teaching skills before they enter the classroom.
The discussion follows recommendations for education reform issued by the HRD Committee, which was formed in April 2015, after His Majesty King Abdullah tasked former Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour with developing an integrated, comprehensive, strategic and well-defined system for human resources development.
The HRD Committee collaborated with a number of experts and specialists to produce an inclusive report on education in Jordan, on which its recommendations were based. The committee used state-of-the-art and internationally-acclaimed methodology to complete the report.
During the discussion, participants discussed the importance of early childhood development in shaping children’s intellectual and emotional development, which is severely lagging behind in Jordan based on the HRD Committee’s research.
Committee experts said that very few children enroll in Kindergarten before starting elementary school, and that Kindergarten teachers are not required to have any training in this field before being hired.
Youth participants also expressed their frustration with the general secondary examination (Tawjihi), which is the determining factor in whether they attend university and what major they study, questioning its ability to properly assess students’ aptitude and ambitions.
On vocational training programs, the youth said that the ones offered represent the weakest link in the education process because they are outdated and not do meet the job market’s requirements.
Currently, these programs only attract the lowest-achieving students, and are unattractive for high-scoring and female students.
As for higher education, the discussion centered on the fact that criteria for university enrollment are neither compatible with the students interests and aspirations, nor with the job market’s needs. This in turn has led to a drop in the quality of higher education outcomes, and an inability to achieve economic development plans.
Experts attributed the decline in university education outcomes to inconsistent legislation and the introduction of parallel enrolment programs, which has led to a surplus in graduates from certain majors.
To meet international standards, the youth also called for introducing a foundation year for medical and engineering students, and for abolishing the parallel education programs to limit the number of unqualified students.
At the end of the session, Director of Jordan Volunteers, Dr. Mutassem Masalmeh, said it was important to abide by the HRD Committee’s recommendations and adopt them on an institutional level, in order to regulate the reform process.
He also added that youth have an essential role in capitalizing on the crucial election-campaign period to bring education reform to the forefront of discussions with candidates and voters, to remind them of the importance of prioritizing education in election platforms as a driver for change.