Keys to the Kingdom
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Human Resources


Education in Jordan: A Commitment to Excellence

The development of Jordan's educational system can only be described as dramatic. Starting from almost nothing in the early 1920s, Jordan has forged a comprehensive, high-quality system to develop the human capital of its citizens. Today there are 2787 government schools, 1493 private schools, 48 community colleges, and 19 universities. In Jordan, access to basic education has been emphasized in all the country’s development plans. The government has, as a matter of policy, provided every village and community with 10 or more school-going children with a school. As a result, the rapid spread of facilities enabled citizens in poor and remote areas to gain access to education.


Attendance at Educational Facilities

Jordan's population is young -42.2 percent are 14 or younger, while 31.4 percent fall between 15 and 29 years of age- and currently almost one-third of all Jordanians are enrolled in educational facilities. Education is free for all primary and secondary school students, and compulsory for all Jordanian children through the age of fifteen. It is estimated that Jordan has achieved over 95 percent enrollment for its school age children, as compared with only 47 percent in 1960. Unlike in many other countries, in Jordan there is a very small disparity in primary school attendance rates between urban and rural areas.

During the year 1997-98, 1,346,178 children attended elementary and secondary schools in Jordan. Of these, 951,831 attended schools run by the Ministry of Education, 229,487 attended private schools, 143,893 went to UNRWA-run schools and the remaining 20,967 attended other government-run schools. In 1997-98, there was one teacher for every 21 students in Jordanian schools.

After finishing their basic schooling, more and more Jordanians are opting to pursue higher education either at home or abroad. In 1997-98, 88,267 students were enrolled in universities while 24,657 pursued their education in Jordan’s community college system. A total of 5850 Jordanians were enrolled in graduate school programs.

Women comprise a large percentage of Jordan’s higher education attendees, accounting for 66.6 percent of community college students and 44.7 percent of the university population in 1997-98. Jordan’s quality educational system has also attracted a large number of foreign students. Out of the 88,267 students attending Jordan’s universities in 1997-98, 11,376 were from outside the country. The Kingdom has also been a popular choice among students around the world who want to study Arabic in a hospitable and friendly environment.

In 1988, the government launched a ten-year education reform package which cost approximately $1 billion. The plan aimed to improve the quality and relevance of education by restructuring the curricula to focus on developing students’ problem solving and critical thinking skills, and linking academic knowledge to real life. The Ministry of Education has launched the second reform plan, for 1998-2002. This plan focuses on upgrading teachers’ skills, school administration, educational information systems, pre-school education and education for children with special needs.

The main problems which the Jordanian educational system is facing now are twofold. First, the country’s burgeoning youth population demands the continued expansion of the educational system. Along with this quantitative expansion, Jordan seeks to improve the quality of its teachers, books, curriculum and facilities. In the area of higher education, the country has suffered from an imbalance between the university and community college systems. The Ministry of Higher Education is now actively promoting the development of Jordan’s community colleges and encouraging enrollment in them, in order to better match the country’s educational system with its labor market, which currently suffers from a shortage of mid-level vocational skills.


High Marks for the Kingdom

Jordan’s investment in education has paid off handsomely, as is demonstrated by a soaring literacy rate. In 1960, only 33 percent of Jordanians aged fifteen and over could functionally read and write. After 34 years of pro-education governmental policies, however, the 1996 literacy rate had climbed to 85.4 percent. The Kingdom hopes to continue this remarkable rise by achieving 92 percent literacy by the turn of the century. While the overall literacy rate has risen sharply, a substantial gender gap remains: two-thirds of all illiterate Jordanians are women.

One of the most significant policy choices that has benefited Jordan’s educational system has been the decision to favor spending on basic education over higher education. This has facilitated the country’s goal of universal enrollment and has boosted literacy levels throughout the general population. By consistently allocating more than three-fourth of the total education budget to primary and secondary schooling, Jordan has adopted an egalitarian approach to education which has benefited the entire country in the long term. Jordan’s education record has proven impressive by international standards, and results from the foresight of the country’s leadership, who saw the need to focus on building the country’s human capital to meet the challenges of the future.