A pertinent educational response in Jordan (In’am Al Mufti)

In Jordan, approximately 1 million children, constituting 25 per cent of the population,
are enrolled in schools. Compulsory education in the country and the boom in school
enrolment at all levels resulted in an over-burdened education system which has not
been able to cope with the issue of educational equity. To remedy the situation, Jordan
has been engaged, over the past ten years, in a comprehensive educational reform
programme to improve the quality of education. Legislation has paid special attention
to students with outstanding abilities, and to developing the skills and training of
teachers to meet the demands of these students.
After identifying the national need for excellence in education and in an effort
to address the issue, the Noor Al Hussein Foundation (NHF) launched an innovative
educational project. NHF, a non-governmental non-profit organization, was
established in 1985 to identify and meet different development needs throughout
Jordan, to introduce innovative and dynamic integrated community development
models, and to set national standards of excellence in human and socio-economic
development, education, culture and the arts. NHF’s philosophy is characterized
by a comprehensive approach to development, based on democra t i c
participation and intersectoral co-operation at all levels.
Working with the government to implement the directives of the national
educational reform plan and to provide educational opportunities for talented
students, NHF established the Jubilee School in 1993 after devoting a decade to
planning, extensive research, curriculum development and teacher training.
The Jubilee School, a co-educational secondary boarding school, offers a
unique learning experience. Its academic pro g ramme is geared to students’
intellectual needs, capabilities and experience. It offers an educational environment
that motivates and challenges students to achieve their full potential through
d i s c o v e r y, experimentation, creative problem-solving and possibly invention.
Applicants to the school are carefully selected through a rigorous multiple-criteria
system that includes school achievement, ratings of behavioural characteristics,
general intellectual level, specific mathematical abilities and levels of creativity.
To ensure equality of opportunity for students from various socio-economic
backgrounds, all students receive scholarships and much emphasis is placed on
enrolling students from remote and under-privileged areas of the kingdom, where
educational facilities are unable to meet the challenging needs of talented students. It
is hoped that the Jubilee School’s graduate students will return to their local
communities, after further training or education, to assume leadership roles and to
contribute to the development of the community.
Committed to a democratic learning environment, the school encourages freedom
of thought and expression. Through their educational experience, students learn how
to become effective users of knowledge. The school seeks not only to equip its students
with a solid academic base, but also to build strength of character and to instil in them
a deep sense of social responsibility.
In addition, the Jubilee School contributes to improving the quality of education
for talented students in the community through its Centre for Excellence in Education,
which works in co-operation with the Ministry of Education and with both the private
and public sectors. The centre seeks to develop educational and instructional
curricula, manuals and information that can be used by other schools throughout
Jordan. It also helps to develop and make widely known innovative approaches to and
advances in mathematics, science and the humanities, which can become resources
for secondary-school teachers in Jordan. The centre functions as a resource library
and an educational research facility. In addition, it sponsors training workshops,
programmes and activities for teachers and talented students from all parts of
Jordan, which focus on training teachers in the most effective teaching techniques,
in curriculum development, and in providing for individual differences in their
own classroom situations. Training programmes also address the issues of
increasing access to early childhood education, increasing learning opportunities
for disadvantaged and minority children with outstanding talents, and
broadening the definition of the gifted through the observation of students in
settings that enable them to display their abilities rather than through reliance
solely on test scores.
The Jubilee School and its Centre for Excellence in Education represent a
successful synthesis of research and innovation to enhance human potential, of
modernization in training laboratories to promote national development, and of cooperation
and commitment by public and private organizations to serve Jordanian
society as a whole. In its first two years of operation, Jubilee School students have
achieved outstanding results in their academic and social development. The school’s
success is reflected most clearly in what one Jubilee student had to say about it:
I used to regard school as a prison. But the Jubilee School is the place where I could learn and
feel completely free. The Jubilee is the place for friends, science and imagination. At the Jubilee,
the teacher is a friend, knowledge is a friend, and books are friends.

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