I am the product of the Jordanian educational system in the late 1970s, 80’s and early 1990s. Not everything I learned came from the schools I attended, of course. There is family, friends, private reading and travel. But I can still can confidently say that I got an adequate education, with moments of great education.
My last 3 years in high school where spent at a public school, the well know Al Hussein College, after being in a variety of good and bad private schools before. Yes, at Al Hussein College, they used to whip us on our hands with a stick if we came too late or didn’t adhere to the governmental school uniform. And yes we had some unbelievably physically aggressive teachers (boxing, kicking, etc). But at least it was an experience of teenagers from all kinds of social background sitting side by side: from the kids of Al Hussein refugee camp to Middle class kids. Maybe we also learned some discipline and good Arabic there!
My architectural studies at the University of Jordan were a mixed bag. But overall I had a great experience there from 1990 to around 1995. We had a great, motivated class (again, mixing all kinds of people) and some really good teachers. In my later university years I became involved in student politics, adding to my exposure an experience.
Up until a few years ago, I always thought that sending my kids to a Jordanian University was a possibility.
Now, I am sorry to say that I have completely changed my mind.
Unless I see a new university rise in Jordan, based on proper academic and social principles, I will do my utmost to offer my kids a college education abroad.
Just today, two columnists from Al-Ghad Newspaper simultaneously rang the alarm bell for the state of Jordan’s universities (Arabic: Hani Al Badri,Dr Akef Al Zu’bi) . Countless articles have been written about this. Even the Minister of Higher Education has voiced extreme concerns.
Yet the People and the State seem to just watch as the ship sinks.
What was once the pride of the Jordanian state, is now a complete disaster.
I had the chance the visit my old Architectural department this summer for a small reunion. Two of my classmates teach there now. The stories I heard were scary. The buildings are in a state of disrepair. It looks like nothing was done since we left in the mid 1990.
On this and other visits to prominent state universities in Jordan you hear and see the same things.
Apparently, it is a common practice for students to simply buy their graduation projects from offices who specialize in this shameful “business”. Fully designed, rendered projects, complete with architectural model are bought by the students and hung up on the wall for the juries. Damn!
During our days, there were some minor stories like that. But nothing of this scale of academic forgery.
The professors seem powerless to change anything. The buildings are decaying around them and they are just sitting there. Their salaries are a joke too.
Classes are swamped with students, many of them don’t not even deserve to be there, academically. Some of the students show zero interest in their work and have graduation projects so bad that a monkey could’ve done better. I’ve seen this with my own eyes and talked to some of these unfortunate students who are shoved into this mass production environment that produces people with empty academic titles.
Then you have all the stories about sectarian fights. Jordanian/Palestinian nonsense. Which tribe are you from. Blah Blah Blah.
Like so many other things in Jordan, such as our national media policy, our social integration policies, our political development, education is deteriorating. The country is getting bigger. People increasingly have access to all the means of modern communication, shopping and entertainment, but the bedrock of our future, education is left in a state of crisis.
At the highest level of the Jordanian State, education is held up as a national priority. But on the ground, our universities are being devalued and destroyed.
What I would like to see is the SAME political will the state puts into fighting TERRORISM and collecting TAXES, being put into TEACHING and education.
All our talk about technology, the knowledge society and future-ready citizens is empty talk if the current state of education is allowed to continue.
Nothing short of announcing a state of educational emergency, appointing a council of respected educators and politicians who oversee the immediate start of rebuilding the universities system will work at this stage.
Entrenched interests that have festered over the past decades will have to be confronted. Costly physical rebuilding might need to be postponed. But re-staffing, re-evaluating general acceptance policies and benchmarking the academic level of students and professors cannot wait.
Selective initiatives and interventions will not work. It’s too late. Rebuilding our universities needs to be handled more like a war: organized, serious, total.