Education in Jordan

Map of Jordan

The education system of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has been improved consistently since the mid-1900s. The role played by a good education system has been significant in the development of Jordan from a predominantly agrarian to an industrialized nation. Nature journal reported Jordan having the highest number of researchers in research and development per million people among all the 57 countries that are members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). In Jordan there are 2,000 researchers per million people, while the average among the members of the OIC is 500 researchers per million people.[1]

In 2003 the share of budget dedicated to education was 6.4 percent of total government expenditure; education spending as a percentage of GDP was 13.5 percent in the same year. At 8.9 percent, Jordan has the third lowest illiteracy rate in the Arab world. The primary gross enrollment ratio has increased from 71 percent in 1994 to 98.2 percent in 2006. Transition rate to secondary school, during the same period, has increased from 63 percent to 97 percent and transition rates to higher education have varied between 79 and 85 percent of secondary school graduates. Along with these high enrollment and transition rates, Jordan has achieved a 90 percent parity in literacy and full parity in primary and secondary enrollment.[2]

Jordan is ranked 95 out of 187 in the Human Development Index.[3] Despite strained resources, the Ministry of Education developed highly advanced national curriculum and many other nations in the region have developed their education system using Jordan as a model. Jordan ranks number one in the Arab World in education. The Jordanian Ministry of Education is now making it mandatory for students to be computer literate and able to apply their studies in computers to their regular studies, most especially the scientific and mathematical courses. Its educational system is of international standards and its secondary education program is accepted in world-class universities.

Education Reform Efforts

The recent education reforms started in the early 1990s. This reform process was accelerated under His Majesty King Abdullah II in early 2001 with a vision to make Jordan the regional technology hub and an active player in the global economy. The National Vision and Mission for Education, as developed and endorsed in late 2002, states the desired direction for general education in the country. The two major consultative documents, that helped shape the national vision and also set directions for educational reform initiatives, were Jordan Vision 2020 and the 2002 Vision Forum for the Future of Education. These documents spanned kindergarten to lifelong continuing education. The overall strategy proposed by the Forum was endorsed by the Economic Consultative Council (ECC) in October 2002. The national development strategy and the Forum results were consolidated into specific development plans, the Social and Economic Transformation Plan, the General Education Plan 2003-08.[4]

In July 2003, the Government of Jordan launched an ambitious program in the entire MENA region a 10-year multi-donor Education Reform for the Knowledge Economy Program (ErfKE) of which the World Bank provided US$120 million. The goal of the program was to re-orient the education policies and programs in line with the needs of a knowledge based economy, improve the physical learning environment in most schools and promote early childhood education. This first phase of program is from 2003–2009, closing in June 2009.[5]

The second phase of the ErfKE, which is aligned with IBRD and IFC Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) for the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, will be from 2009-2015. The aim of this program is to strengthen and institutionalize the reforms introduced under ERfKE I, with a particular focus on school level implementation and teacher quality. It will strengthen the institutional capacity of MoE in policy, strategic planning and monitoring and evaluation, and improve teacher employment, utilization and professional development policies and implementation. The program will also fine tune the curriculum and student assessment to ensure alignment with the knowledge based economy.[6]

Jordan Education Initiative recently received the UNESCO prize on ICT use in Education.This pioneering education project in Jordan schools is based on utilizing the power of information and technology with the proven methods of learning to transform the learning environment in schools.[7][8]

Education Management System

The Ministry of Education (MoE) is responsible for the pre-primary, primary and secondary levels of education. The post-secondary education is the responsibility of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MoHESR). This Ministry includes the Higher Education Council and the Accreditation Council. The MoHESR has outlined a National Strategy for Higher Education for the years 2007-2012.

Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) at the post-basic level (excluding community colleges) as well as applied vocational education, administered by the Vocational Training Corporation(VTC), is under the authority of the Ministry of Labor.[9]

School Education

The structure of the educational system in Jordan consists of a two-year cycle of pre-school education, ten years of compulsory basic education, and two years of secondary academic or vocational education after which the students sit for a General Certificate of Secondary Education Exam—Tawjihi. Basic Education is free of charge, and so is generally secondary education in public schools.[10]

Basic Education

Jordanian students

Basic Education is a 10-year compulsory and free level of education. Study books are standard books distributed by the Ministry of Education. Education is compulsory for all through the age of fifteen.

More than half of the Jordan population is below the age of 30 years. About 42.2 percent are 14 years or younger, whereas 31.4 percent fall between 15–29 years of age; almost one-third of the Jordanians are enrolled in educational facilities. As of 2007/2008 the gross primary enrollment rate is 95.7 percent which is higher than the regional average of 93 percent. Jordan also ensures a high level of gender parity in access to basic services; the gender parity index for gross enrollment ratio in primary education is 0.98,[11] better than other Arab countries. It is also one of the few Arab countries that have very small disparity in primary school attendance rates among urban and rural areas.[12] This is mainly because public financing for basic schooling is more pro-poor than that for any other education level.[2]

Schools in Jordan have two main categories, public and private. The private education sector accommodates more than 31.14 percent[13] of the student population in the capital of Jordan, Amman. This sector is still heavily taxed, up to 25%++, although it takes a high burden off the government of the Kingdom, which makes school fees relatively high, starting at $1000, and going up to $7000. These values for private education fees are extremely high when compared to the average family incomes.

Secondary education

Students in this education level are required to take nine subjects: Arabic, English, Mathematics, Social Studies, Computer Studies, Earth Science, Chemistry, Biology, and Physics. Islamic studies are also mandatory for all students except for Christian students. The secondary education level consists of two years' study for students aged 16 to 18 who have completed the basic cycle (ten years) and comprises two major tracks:

A group of young women, most in oversized green tunics and some wearing headscarves, in a bazaar. In front of them is a police officer in a blue uniform.
Female secondary students on a field trip to Jerash

Enrollment rates at secondary level have remained fairly constant since 2002 at around 89 percent. In terms of enrollment by gender, girls’ enrollment rate is higher than the enrollment rates for boys. In 2007 there were 91 percent females enrolled in secondary education compared to 88 percent of males.[11] As can be seen from the chart below, the secondary enrollment rates are higher than the regional average by almost 25 percentage points.

The enrollment in secondary vocational education as a share of total secondary enrollment declined from 18 percent in 2000 to 12 percent in 2005, which shows that government needs to put in greater efforts to realign the national vocational program with reforms initiated by the Ministries of Labor and Social Affairs and Higher Education and Scientific Research to impart skills sought after by employers when hiring new workers.[14]

Jordan still needs to focus on improving the quality of primary and secondary education levels. In international assessments, such as TIMSS and PISA, Jordan has performed well in comparison to other Arab countries, but it falls below many countries with comparable incomes and education expenditures. Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) Report in 2003 ranked Jordanian students' scores to be 22 points above international average in science and mathematics.[15] However, up to 30 percent of students drop out before the completion of the 11th grade.[14]

But in the 2011 TIMSS edition, Jordan slipped to a 10-year low in math and science.

Despite highly equitable primary education, secondary level and vocational training still reflect gender and income distortions. Completion and transition rates to tertiary education are highly correlated with family incomes; there are 3 times more students at the university level from families in upper two income quintiles.

UNRWA in Jordan

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) operates one of the largest school systems in the Middle East providing basic and preparatory education to Palestinian refugees for nearly five decades. The Agency provides basic education free of charge to all Palestinian refugee children in the area of operations, including Jordan. There are also vocational and training courses provided in eight training centers, two of which are in Jordan, for the past four decades. The Agency has established an Institute of Education, which is headquartered in Amman, to provide training to the UNRWA teaching staff.

In Jordan, not all refugee children attend UNRWA schools. Most of the refugees have access to government schools; therefore a number of refugees send their children to nearby government schools. Most of the UNRWA schools run on more than single shift. Approximately 83 percent of UNRWA elementary schools and 62 percent of UNRWA preparatory schools are operated in full double shifts. The Jordan Field has the highest percentage of double shift schools, averaging about 93 percent.[16] The total refugee pupil enrollment in Jordan at various education levels is the following:

Total Refugee Pupil Enrollment in Jordan distributed by Education Level and School

School Authority Elementary Level Preparatory Level Secondary Level
UNRWA School 86,931 54,283 0
Government School 38,180 25,938 2,943
Private School 2,616 1,347 18,488
Total 127,727 81,558 21,431 230,716

*Enrollment figures of refugee pupils in government and private schools are believed to be incomplete, since refugee pupils lack incentives to report their status if and when requested

Higher education

Just over 2.5% of Jordan's total population is enrolled at university, a proportion comparable to the United Kingdom.[17] Access to higher education is open to holders of the General Secondary Education Certificate who can then choose between private Community Colleges, public Community Colleges or universities (public and private). The credit-hour system, which entitles students to select courses according to a study plan, is implemented at universities.

Higher education system of the country has evolved considerably in the past five years. But still a lot needs to be done to keep up with a rapidly growing knowledge based economy. In years between 2000/2001 and 2006/2007, Jordan has seen an increased demand for higher education with enrollments growing at an annual rate of 14 percent from 77,841 to 218,900students. It has tertiary gross enrollment levels of about 40 percent which is higher than the regional average, as can be seen from the chart below. Three new public universities have been established recently reaching a total of 10 public universities in the country.

Private universities have seen a rapid increase in enrollments as well. Since 2000 to 2006, enrollment in 12 private universities grew by about 18 percent annually from 36,642 to 55,744. However, enrollment numbers in community colleges declined from 30,000 to 26,215.This decrease in enrollment rates reflect a bias to a 4-year university education and also the fact that quality and level of training given in these colleges is not what is in demand in the labor market of a knowledge based economy. With increasing number of students going for the attainment of higher education, the government needs to allocate greater resources in improving the current higher education system and also to improve access of good universities for the rising population. Even the private universities have to change some of their admission policies. The enrollment cap in the private universities restricts the ability of university to absorb increasing number of higher education students. Projection for the number of students entering university is 92,000 per year by 2013 up from 50,469 in 2005.[18]

University Level Studies

• First stage: Undergraduate level Most universities in Jordan follow the English-American education systems and are associated with many American and English universities. Bachelor's Degrees normally take four years. In Dentistry, Pharmacy and Engineering, studies last for five years. In Medicine, they last for six years, followed by an Internship which lasts for one year. The bachelor's degree requires a total of 126-257 credit hours, depending on the field of study.

• Second stage: Postgraduate level A Master's degree is awarded after a further one to two years' study following a bachelor's degree. It can be obtained either by course work and a thesis (c. 24 credit hours of courses and nine credit hours of research), or by course work (c. 33 credit hours) and a comprehensive examination. There are other postgraduate degrees equivalent to the master's degree in some Jordanian universities like the Magister in the German Jordanian University, the DEA's degree in the Universities which follow the French system and the MBA for the students who have significant work experience.

• Third stage: Doctorate A Doctorate Degree is awarded after three to five years of further study and the submission of an original dissertation. It requires, depending on the subject, 24 credit hours of course work and 24 credit hours of research.

• Teacher education: Training of pre-primary and primary/basic school teachers Basic schoolteachers must hold a bachelor's degree. Training of secondary school teachers: Secondary school teachers must hold a bachelor's degree and a one-year postgraduate Higher Diploma in Education. Training of higher education teachers: They must hold a Doctorate (PhD). In some cases a master's degree is sufficient.

• Non-traditional studies: Distance higher education This type of education is offered at the newly established branch of the Arab Open University.

Source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics 2007

Non-University Level Studies

Non-university and vocational studies are offered in community colleges, access to which is open to holders of all types of general secondary education certificates. The two-to three-year programme encompasses many fields, such as Arts, Science, Management, Business Administration and Engineering. As of 1997, all public Community Colleges are under the supervision of Al-Balqa Applied University. At the end of the two- or three-year course, students sit for a comprehensive examination (Al-Shamel). Those who pass are awarded the associate degree / Diploma.

Lifelong Higher Education

Lifelong education is offered at public and private universities, public and private community colleges, the Jordan Institute of Public Administration, The Royal Jordan Geographic Center and The Royal Scientific Society, as well as in other institutions. Courses are offered in Engineering, Industry, Agriculture, Foreign Languages, Computer Sciences, Managerial Sciences, Secretarial Studies, Physical Education and subjects that can help the local community. Courses last between one week and six months at the end of which students obtain a Certificate of Attendance or Achievement. The qualifications needed depend on the subject and level of the course. Some are designed for specific occupations, in which case a work experience in the relevant field is needed to attend such courses, such as the books of Nadia Saqer.


Challenges: Jordan, despite showing impressive improvement in the education system, still needs to fix some of the persistent problems in this sector. With the rising growing youth population, Jordanian government has to ensure that the quality of education and level of skills imparted can help the new generation to compete effectively in the national and international arena. Currently, there are a number of problems: a mismatch of skills taught and skills required by the employers leading to high unemployment, and the fewer jobs that have been created for Jordanians are of low skills; outdated teaching methodologies; lack of teachers’ training and limited use of technology.[5]

A recent school utilization study indicates that the number of Ministry of Education students is expected to increase by 124,634 between 2008 and 2013. To accommodate the rise in students, additional 3,360 classrooms will be needed during this time period. The same study reveals an uneven provision of educational infrastructure. In the Kingdom there exists concurrently excess capacity and wide-scale overcrowding of the schools.[19]

Then the government spending on higher education needs to increase to cater to the rising demand for higher education. Instead, public spending for higher education has declined over the years; it is 14.7 percent of total education expenditures or 0.65 percent of GDP which is low when compared to other middle income countries and to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average of 1.6 percent of GDP. Even transfers to universities have declined from JD 60.4 million in 2004 to JD 52.6 million in 2007 and JD 45 million in 2008.[20]

See also


  1. ": Islam and Science: The data gap : Article : Nature".
  2. 1 2 "World Bank. 2009. "Education Reform for the Knowledge Economy II." Project Information Document. World Bank, Washington ,DC" (PDF).
  3. "UNDP".
  4. "World Bank 2009. "Education Reform for Knowledge Economy II Project." Project Appraisal Document.pp4" (PDF).
  5. 1 2 "USAID in Jordan 2009".
  6. "World Bank MENA external website".
  7. "World Bank blog,2010".
  8. "Jordan Education Initiative".
  9. "World Bank 2003.Education Reform for Knowledge Economy I, Project Appraisal Document(PAD)" (PDF).
  10. 1 2 3 "Vocational Education in Jordan". UNESCO-UNEVOC. November 2012. Retrieved 2 June 2014.
  11. 1 2 UNESCO Institute of Statistics
  12. "Government of Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan".
  13. Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Ministry of Education
  14. 1 2 "World Bank. 2009. "Education Reform for the Knowledge Economy II." Project Information Document. World Bank, Washington, DC" (PDF).
  16. "United Nations Relief and Works Agency(UNRWA)".
  17. "Rough Guides -". Rough Guides.
  18. "World Bank 2009."Higher Education Reform for the Knowledge Economy Project." Project Appraisal Document. World Bank. Washington, DC" (PDF).
  19. "World Bank. 2009. "Education Reform for the Knowledge Economy II." Project Information Document. World Bank, Washington ,DC" (PDF).
  20. "World Bank 2009."Higher Education Reform for the Knowledge Economy Project." Project Appraisal Document. World Bank. Washington, DC" (PDF).

External links

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