In Jordan, the education sector plan responds to changing needs

14 April 2022

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©Richard Juilliart/Shutterstock.com
Children at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

A national education sector plan captures the goals and strategies for transforming education, to become equitable, inclusive, and ready for the future. But what happens when new challenges arise, or contexts change? IIEP-UNESCO’s work in Jordan reveals how important it is to bring together Ministry of Education officials and partners to take stock of the plan’s implementation and ensure its relevance in a changing world.

Jordan’s current Education Strategic Plan (ESP) was first unveiled in 2018, with a bold vision for achieving the Education 2030 Agenda. Just two years in, COVID-19 impacted education across the globe, including in Jordan. The Ministry responded to the crisis quickly and formulated the Education During Emergency Plan, which introduced blended learning as a priority even in post-pandemic times. Still, a mid-term review of the ESP was warranted as an important opportunity to gauge progress and reevaluate strategies.

“We are seeing a growing demand from ministries of education for this type of review. It is a useful way to support plan implementation,” says IIEP programme specialist Anna Haas.

To conduct the mid-term review, IIEP, and UNESCO at large, worked with the Ministry of Education to establish and guide nine working groups. Six of them analyzed the different priority areas of the plan, from early childhood education, access, quality, and development to vocational education. The others covered monitoring and evaluation, costing and financing, and partnerships and coordination. Using different indicators, the groups analyzed the various trends in the education system and how to adjust the different educational strategies in place.

Signs of progress

One of the major achievements of the mid-term review was that it brought together a wide variety of education actors, including both technical professionals and senior ministry officials.

“In Jordan, the education plan is really alive. They use it to frame and structure the work in the sector,” explains Haas.

Ministry officials have also reported to IIEP that this is because of the broad involvement of education officials and partners, from the very initial planning steps through to this latest activity.

The review, which started in 2021 and has now culminated with a final report, provided the big picture of what’s happening in Jordan’s education system. It brought to the forefront notable signs of progress – before COVID-19. From 2016 to 2020, enrollment grew by 160,000 learners and student learning improved for both boys and girls at age 15. The pupil-teacher ratio also remained relatively stable.

However, COVID-19 has put these gains in access, equity, and quality at risk, especially for vulnerable learners, refugees, or children with various educational needs. In addition to a total of 18 months of school closures, the education system struggles with overcrowding. Part of this because of the large number of students who transferred from private to public schools during the pandemic because of adverse economic impacts on families’ income. In response, the Ministry is increasingly relying on double shift schools until more schools and teachers become available, but the implications of this will require close attention in the years to come.

Faced with these and other challenges, the Ministry recognizes the need to institutionalize crisis and risk management in education. A Crisis and Risk Management division is being established within the central Ministry of Education to minimize the risk of future disruption of learning and to protect the safety, health, and well-being of all learners, including refugees, and school personnel.

In March 2022, the Ministry of Education, with support from UNESCO and IIEP, also began developing a national crisis and risk management plan for the education sector, which will be aligned to Jordan’s National Strategy for Crisis and Risk Management. Education leaders from schools, Field Directorates, and the central Ministry are collectively reflecting on experiences, such as COVID-19, to identify new strategies to prevent, prepare for, and mitigate natural and human-made hazards in education.

New directions

Since the inception of the ESP, the Ministry has positioned inclusive education higher on the agenda with a bold new strategy. Reforming Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is also underway.

“Evidence has shown that children and youth from vulnerable groups in Jordan have been hit the hardest by the pandemic and have the least engagement with online learning. Stronger priority and mainstreaming of remedial education approaches within public schools will be needed during the remaining ESP period.”
-    The Mid-Term Review report

The mid-term review also opened the door to some important adjustments and a call for stronger financial mobilization and coordination. Overall, the review found the plan’s six priority areas and nearly two dozen components still highly relevant for improving the education sector. At the same time, the pandemic delayed some key areas, and because of the review the Ministry decided to extend the plan period by three more years, until end 2025.

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