Educational reform, Jordanian style
Parliament recently amended the education law. The amendments included a controversial ban on so-called cultural centers from teaching students ministry of education curricula.
Students go to these centers to improve their chances in getting good grades on the dreaded tawjihi (high school exit) examination. The tawjihi is a pivotal point in the lives of Jordanians. Their prospects for education and work are made or broken depending on this test. It is not surprising that students would want to try and get any edge they can, and they are willing to pay for this extra edge.
So, why does this bother the ministry of education? On his justification for amending the law, the minister of education said simply that teaching the education curricula is the job of schools, and not these centers. He added that “some” of these centers distorted the curricula, requiring this ban. Other justifications included the charge that the centers discouraged teachers from giving their best in the class room, as these same teachers often also work at the cultural centers. He said that this is not fair to students who do not go to the centers.
Without going into the response of the cultural centers themselves, I would say that perhaps the ministry of education needs some instruction on simple problem solving techniques. Let’s say that the fact that students for some reason are not learning at ministry of education schools. Now, since the ministry also does the tawjihi, they can control perceptions on how well they are doing their job by simply adjusting the results to improve success rates. No problem. It is no wonder that the ministry is reluctant to abolish this backward examination. They don’t want universities running entrance examinations.
But the students know that they aren’t learning well, and they don’t want to trust the MoE to pass them. So, they either go to the cultural centers, or the more financially able get private tutors. Now, this is embarrassing. The idea that 80,000 students need extra help to learn the ministry curricula is a clear indication that there is something terribly wrong.
Now, what is the problem? The reaction of the ministry suggests that they are embarrassed by their demonstrable failure being exposed (they are not embarrassed by the failure itself). So, to rid themselves of this embarrassment, they deal with the symptoms (the cultural centers) rather than with the problem (their teaching is poor). The assumption that teachers will start teaching better if they are prevented from also teaching at the cultural centers is tenuous at best. I mean, maybe the teachers have a vested interest in their students paying them to do a good job (because their salaries are low). However, it doesn’t follow that if you lower their standard of living they will do a better job. Moreover, the ministry could simply prevent their teachers from teaching at the cultural centers, without shutting the centers down.
Of course, this is assuming that improving teaching is the primary concern in the first place. If that is the case, many other things need to be done. The government knows exactly what these are. They will cost money. Shutting down these centers is a much cheaper option.