Achieving Basic Education for All
September 30, 2010
Source: The Jordan Times
By Tayseer Al Noaimi
Only five years separate us from the finish line in the race towards achieving Goal 2 of the Millennium Development Goals, calling for ensuring that “all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling”.
Education is the foundation for achieving all MDGs together. It opens the doors for, and empowers individuals with, knowledge and skills; it helps communities make informed decisions, enjoy better health, better living and safer and more sustainable environments. In other words, education allows us to reach our full potential as human beings.
In this context, His Majesty King Abdullah’s insistence on “education, education, education” can be understood.
Education for all is a basic right. It is: everyone’s concern; a development imperative; for all males and females with no exclusion or marginalisation; for all ages in all settings. Education for all means inclusive quality education. Although it is making remarkable progress, there are still many challenges to overcome and as such, it needs support from everyone, especially that it has multiplier effect, benefiting many in the society.
A simple inventory of what has been achieved in relation to this goal makes it possible to say, very confidently, that Jordan has achieved basic education for all its children.
The rate of students outside basic education (either because of non-enrollment or because of dropping out of school) has declined from 13 per cent in 1990 to 2 per cent in 2009. Consequently, net enrolment rates now stand at around 98 per cent and gender parity is achieved.
The rate of students who successfully complete the 5th grade has increased from 92 per cent in 1990 to 99 per cent in 2008. Furthermore, almost all Jordanians (99 per cent) in the 15–24 age group can read and write.
However, this beautiful picture at national level hides troubling aspects of inequalities in the form of disparities in net enrolment rates from one governorate to another. Furthermore, children do not start their schooling on an equal footing.
Among the challenging issues that could undermine our achievements are: a sizeable percentage of students (17 per cent) still receive their education in rented buildings, and around 13 per cent still attend double-shift schools; there has been a noticeable rise in classroom density, especially in the main cities; even though the rates of dropout from basic education are still within their lowest limits (0.4 per cent), the number of dropout students is rising.
The quality of education is the most prominent of all challenges. It is no more acceptable just to provide education for all, but to ensure the provision of quality education. While gaps in enrolment rates are narrowing, quality gaps among schools are widening.
At the same time, the shortage of male teachers is increasing, especially those teaching mathematics, science and English language.
Jordan has achieved, or is on the verge of achieving, the “basic education for all” target, and is ensuring that all complete the basic education cycle. The mere provision of education for all is no more sufficient for Jordan, given that the target has been met.
In light of the aforementioned facts, the educational policies should focus on: bridging the remaining gaps in the goal-specific indicators for the universal basic education target focusing on existing disparities at local communities levels; expanding pre-school programmes, with a focus on remote and poor areas, by establishing more kindergartens, in view of the positive impact enrolment in kindergartens has had on the children’s completion of their full course of basic education (early childhood care and?education is the bedrock of education for all); expanding programmes targeting marginalised and excluded students with disabilities, with a focus on the strategy of mainstreaming in coordination with the Higher Council for the Affairs of Persons with Disabilities; embarking without delay on implementing the second phase of the Education Reform for Knowledge Economy (ERfKE II), focusing on school-level improvement models.
The writer is former minister of education in Jordan. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times