From Teaching to Learning

 

For a nation like Jordan with few natural resources, attributes such as competitiveness, prosperity and wellbeing depend on developing innovative, dynamic, skilled and educated human resources. However, the public education system in Jordan faces enormous challenges such as limited resources, overcrowded classrooms and limited training and development opportunities for teachers.

World trends in education indicate that the impact qualified teachers have on students’ performance is higher than any other educational factor. Global examples of teacher development also indicate that without pre-service teacher development and teacher licensing, no real impactful reform can be achieved on the ground. In Jordan, while there are efforts to train public in-service school teachers, these efforts are in essence trying to compensate for the lack of earlier pre-service instead of focusing on teachers’ career development. These efforts are also faced with the fact that not enough opportunities are available for all teachers to access quality practical training. Hence, the results may render the teacher, who happens to be the most important factor in advancing education system, obsolete.

Despite the many initiatives to improve education in Jordan, student learning outcomes are lagging and the skills of graduates are not meeting the needs of the economy. Every year, over half of school students fail their Secondary School exams (Tawjihi) and leave school without clear alternative pathways or support. There is an oversupply of university graduates and chronic undersupply of skilled craftsmen and technicians. As a result, youth unemployment is running at 31.8% and total workforce participation is only 41%, one of the lowest rates in the world. [1]

Furthermore, Jordan and the Middle East are at a critical point. Today, the region is the world’s largest producer and host of forced migration, with the number of refugees and displaced people reaching almost 15 million. More than 13 million children in the region are not receiving an education as a result of conflict – that’s 40% of the school age population. [2]

The current career progression system does not promote the best or most equipped teachers into leadership positions; instead, it rewards those who have stayed the longest in the system. The Ministry of Education has previously engaged with UNESCO and consultants on developing teacher continuous professional development framework and career path which is believed to set the requirements for teacher competencies and certification. This framework is not yet endorsed by the Ministry of Education but is progressing in that direction. The Ministry of Education has just completed generic teacher professional standards with partners, and in the process of developing subject specific teacher standards, competencies, and KPIs, these are projected to be ready by the end of 2018.

Recognizing the importance and the value good teachers could bring to education; Jordan needs to address the challenge of qualifying and certifying teachers as a key priority before they join the profession “Pre-Service” as well as the necessity to improve the skills of existing teachers through additional training and new, effective CPD, certification and/or licensing systems “in-service”. The projections of the MoE indicate a need for 3,000 to 4,000 new qualified teachers annually.

For in-service teachers, MoE numbers indicate there are currently 80,000 to 90,000 teachers between early grades and basic and secondary education public teachers, and about 30,000 to 40,000 teachers in private schools[3]. There is no consistent level of training for teachers in either the public or private sector. Statistics indicate that only 43% of public school teachers and 29% of private school teachers received formal in-service training in the past two years[4]. In comparison, 91% of upper-secondary teachers in OECD countries.

 

The future of an entire generation of children is uncertain, and a key to addressing these challenges is the role of teachers and principals. If they lack the skills and training, no amount of grants to build schools or run programs will make the system sustainable in the long-term. We must build capacity at the point of institutional leadership. It is at this level that we can achieve impact as Principals can have a direct effect on the quality of teaching and learning in the schools that they lead, this needs to be supported by the necessary bylaws and regulations in the teachers licensing policies together with the political will to make it happen.

To address these challenges, attention has been shifting to make teaching and learning a priority for the country. The National Human Resource Development Strategy (HRD), launched by His Majesty King Abdullah II and Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah in November 2016, laid down the key components for education development. It will ensure current and future generations develop the skills and capabilities they need to excel successfully.

The National Human Resource Development Strategy sets out clear strategic objectives to achieve the required results in relation to the professional development of teachers and principals. Specifically, the HRD Strategy calls to: establish an Initial Teacher Education Program, develop comprehensive in-service teacher training, introduce a teacher licensing system, and introduce a school leader certification and licensing system.

The Queen Rania Teacher Academy has been, a key partner with the Ministry of Education, providing valuable professional learning opportunities for teachers in in-service since it was established in 2009, with a cumulative outreach of over 60,000 teachers from the various programs.

One of the in-service programs QRTA has been implementing with the  MoE, is the “School Networks” programme established in partnership with Teachers College - Columbia University for instructional improvement in core subjects of Math, Science and English Language, and QRTA’s flagship networks of Arabic Language and Environment. QRTA, has been delivering this programme since 2009, the most important factor in the success of the program has been the direct field support QRTA team provides to the teachers at their instruction environment, in essence working with the teachers hand in hand at their own workspace, the classroom, and helping them navigate the challenges on the ground. The program will soon reach a cumulative total of about 10,000 public school teachers by 2019 through the support and partnership with the Global Affairs Canada (GAC).

In line with the national HRD Strategy, QRTA launched the first initial Teacher Education Professional Diploma (TEPD) in 2016 to prepare future educators to treat classrooms as more than mere space, but as the birthplaces of innovation, leadership, intellectual curiosity, and civic participation among Jordanian youth. Launched by Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah, TEPD has already graduated almost 200 student teachers in 2017, and about 500 student teachers in 2018, and will be scaling up to meet the demands for future certified teachers to enter the public sector education system and meet its needs. QRTA currently offers TEPD for Arabic, English, Math, Science, and early grades teachers, and has already taken 800 students for the academic year 2018/2019.

Furthermore, QRTA programs are strengthened by strategic partnerships with international and regional organizations and well-reputed academic institutions and universities; the flagship Pre-service “Teacher Education Professional Diploma” - TEPD in partnership with University College London – Institute of Education, and the Advanced Leadership Diploma for principals in cooperation with University of Connecticut.

Another important reason to empower and educate teachers is to be able to respond and deal with crisis. The Syrian refugees’ crisis led QRTA to develop and implement the Psychosocial Support program which trains teachers on how to offer psycho-social support, and utilize interactive teaching pedagogies, effective classroom management techniques and academic and behavioral assessment strategies to enhance students’ engagement and promote safe, supportive, healthy and inclusive learning environments in schools. The Teach Like a Champion program is another important program, which is based on “Teach Like a Champion”, a New York Times bestseller authored by Doug Lemov, and provides the basis for creating a powerful learning environment that helps educators improve their teaching techniques dramatically.

With the TEPD pre-service Diploma scaling up in the next 3 to 5 years to meet the annual demand for future teachers, and to meet the goals of the education system reform and the National HRD Strategy goals, there are increasing needs to focus on up-skilling and certifying current in-service teachers.

The above pre-service and in-service programs need to be further supported by issuing the teacher licensing bylaw, dedicating the required financial resources, and most importantly have enough political will and support at the different levels to realize its potential over the next 5 to 10 years, only then we can see the positive impact on our students and education system.

Written by:

Haif Bannayan – CEO of Queen Rania Teacher Academy


[1] The national strategy for human resource development

[2] Ibid

[3] MoE annual statistics report

[4] The national strategy for human resource development