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Thneibat denounces ‘campaign’ against Jordanian education

By Laila Azzeh - Oct 06,2016 - Last updated at Oct 06,2016

Deputy Prime Minister for Services and Minister of Education Mohammad Thneibat holds a textbook during a press conference at the Prime Ministry on Wednesday (Photo by Raad Adayleh)

AMMAN — Deputy Prime Minister for Services and Minister of Education Mohammad Thneibat on Wednesday denounced what he described as a “misleading campaign” against Jordan's education system.

He made his remarks at a press conference held to clarify the ministry's stance towards the controversy that accompanied recent changes to school textbooks, perceived by some as tampering with religious values.

Earlier this year, Thneibat formed a committee of former ministers and education experts to review textbooks and offer detailed recommendations.

Several amendments were introduced, and the outcomes were met with a mixture of criticism and praise.

Critics had a louder voice because they included the Jordan Teachers Association (JTA).

The changes are under attack because they are perceived by some parents and education experts as a way to “alienate students from their Islamic identity”.

As a result, hundreds of teachers and parents held a sit-in outside the Education Ministry last week to protest the curricular change.

Protesters burnt copies of the textbooks and held banners that accused the ministry of scrapping the Islamic identity of the curriculum, chanting slogans that called for Thneibat’s resignation.

A fierce campaign against the ministry is also being waged on social media, accusing the ministry of complying with “dictations from foreign sides”.

“Such accusations are ridiculous. The recent curricular changes have been made by Jordanian experts, scholars and thinkers. Not a penny was paid from outside sources for the Jordanian curricula,” said Thneibat.

He criticised some who took to social media to publish copies of textbooks from other countries, claiming that they belong to Jordan as a way to mislead the public, which “unfortunately believed such claims without verifying them themselves”.

“They said we have taken out verses from the Koran and Hadith [Prophet Mohammad’s sayings] from the curricula, which cannot be further from the truth,” noted Thneibat, who introduced examples from the new curricula that contradict the accusations.

He stressed the ministry’s commitment to entrenching Islamic and humanitarian values among students, saying that the Koran is an integral part of the curricula.

“But the ministry will not tolerate any attempt to politicise education or to manipulate students’ minds…the new changes help students better understand the moderate and tolerant component of Islam, while respecting others,” the minister highlighted.

He described the burning of school textbooks, and encouraging students to do so, as “uncivilised” acts, and said the perpetrators would be held to account.  

“Development is the main feature of the Jordanian state and the recent curricular changes should be considered an achievement for the government for they are considered huge reform strides,” said the minister.

He called on the public not to believe everything that is posted on social media websites and to examine the textbooks, which are now in the hands of more than 1.4 million students.

On the other hand, he said that the JTA’s stance towards the controversy and their encouragement of the protests were illegal.

“The JTA president is member of the ministry’s education council, but otherwise the syndicate is not authorised by the law to intervene in the curricula. However, it is its duty to report to us teachers’ complaints and ideas over the school textbooks,” added Thneibat.

With more than 22,000 students transferred from the private to public schools this year, the minister noted that this proves the development of the public education system.

Minister of State for Media Affairs Mohammad Momani also voiced his shock over the “unethical” and “unscientific” way of discussing the new curricular changes, saying that legal actions will be taken against those who misled the public.

Thneibat underlined the ministry’s commitment to continue receiving people’s feedback on the changes.

“The curricula are not sacrosanct and we welcome constructive suggestions. We plead to people not to take the curricular amendments out of context and to examine the textbooks before coming to us,” he said.

Meanwhile, the JTA issued a statement following the press conference, saying that Thneibat’s remarks included “many mistakes” and accusing the ministry of suffering from “extreme bureaucracy under the name of the law”.

“The association has presented its views over the curricular changes and the ministry did not even get back to us,” JTA Spokesperson Ahmad Hajaya told The Jordan Times, saying that “hundreds” of verses of the Koran had been scrapped from the books.

 

“We continue to receive complaints from parents and teachers in the field. Many have decided not to send their children to school until the amendments are revisited,” he noted.

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