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Mass shift of students from private to public schools ‘great strain’ on system

By Sawsan Tabazah - Sep 13,2018 - Last updated at Sep 13,2018

AMMAN — Mass movement in the number of students switching from private to public schools has been increasing the pressure on infrastructure, directly affecting the quality of the educational process, Teachers Association President Basel Freihat said. 

According to the Ministry of Education’s (MoE) Spokesperson Walid Jallad, around 50,000 students have moved from private to public schools since the start of the 2019-2020 academic year and the number is still expected to increase, as the deadline for moving students to public schools falls on September 15. 

Overcrowding in government schools is not a new problem but, today, some classrooms are filled by 60 students, which impacts the teacher, the students and the educational environment, Freihat said, stressing that the average classroom should contain 30 students, especially during the elementary stage “which is the most important stage in the student’s life”.

“I have 42 students in my class, which means that each student has less than a minute to ask or participate during the 40-minute class” Bareihan Asfoura, an Arabic teacher at a government school in Amman’s Hashmi Sahamali area said. 

Asfoura, who has 25 years of experience, stressed that the actual time dedicated to each student could be even much lower than that, especially if the teacher has little to no experience in controlling big classrooms.  

In Jordan, around two million students are currently attending public, private and UNRWA schools, according to official figures.  

“Among the challenges we are facing is the Syrian refugee crisis as there are around 130,000 Syrian students studying at the ministry’s schools” Jallad stated, noting that the largest numbers of school changes were recorded at the ministry’s schools in Amman, Zarqaa and other northern governorates. 

He said that the ministry this year opened 20 new schools, rented new school buildings and transferred some schools to two-shifts system as well as recruiting 2,000 teachers, as part of its strategic plan to face the increasing number of students.

The official added that 600 schools are expected to open around the Kingdom within the next 10 years, 20 of which are currently being built.

For Munther Swari, president of the Private Schools Owners Association, the withdrawal of students from private schools is due to the economic status of middle-income families.“Most students who moved to public schools are not international schools’ students but who used to attend small and medium private schools,” he said.

However, he said he believes the media have created a propaganda about private education by talking about high fees and disputes between parents and schools, which directly affected people’s trust towards these institutions. 

According to the MoE spokesperson, a new system to govern the relationship between parents and private schools will be activated soon to ensure that private schools do not raise fees during the year. 

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If the new tax code proposal is implemented, expect many more parents to remove their children from private schools and place them in public schools. The proposed tax code only considers that an additional "X" number of Dinars will enter the Government box and neglects to consider that the Government will have to spend X times 2 or 3 to accommodate the influx of students transferring from private to public schools. This is typical Government thinking . . . short term and incomplete.

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