Girls Education in Jordan

Girls' Education in Jordan

Jordan is a Middle Eastern country with very limited resources. The official name is “Al-Mamlakah al-Urdunnīyah al-Hāshimīyah (Al-Urdun)” (Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan) and the capital is Amman. Jordan's official language is Arabic and its official religion is Islam. Jordan's population structured from different ethnic groups and estimate 6,610,026 in year (2008) with 1.2% annual growth.

In this paper, I will take a look at the Girls' education in Jordan through the global monitoring reports, and the Jordanian governmental resources in addition to different non-governmental reports. First, I will introduce the educational system and girls' education in Jordan. Second, I will illustrate factors that relate specifically to the low enrolment rate of school-age girls and women literacy through “World Bank GMR reports” from different years' reports. Finally, I will bring different studies and reports that show the progress toward the EFA goals concerning girls' education in Jordan.

The educational system in Jordan

“The structure of the educational system in Jordan consists of a two-year cycle of pre-school education, ten years of compulsory basic education, and two years of secondary academic or vocational education after which the students sit for a General Certificate of Secondary Education Exam – Tawjihi” (USAID, 2006, ¶ 3). According to Jordan ministry of Education legislation No. 3 ( 1994) ,” Education is compulsory for all children (girls and boys) for the ten years stretching from primary education to the first cycle of secondary, and the first year of the second secondary cycle” (UNESCO, 2007, p.37). All Jordanian public schools are free, and follow a standard national curriculum, using the same textbooks distributed by the Ministry of Education, and state-determined grading procedures. After the tenth grade, students are placed in one of three tracks: the academic track, which has two sub streams—humanities or science—, the information technology track, or the vocational track (Adely, 2004).

More than half of the Jordan population is below the age of 30 years. “About 42.2 percent are 14 years or younger, whereas 31.4 percent fall between 15-29 years of age; almost one-third of the Jordanians are enrolled in educational facilities” (Government of Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, n/d, ¶ 2). As of 2007, the gross primary enrollment rate is 95.8 per cent for males and 97.6 per cent for females, the gross Secondary enrollment rate is 87.6 per cent for males and 89.8 per cent for females, and the gross Tertiary enrollment rate is 37 per cent for males and 41.2 per cent for females. Jordan ensures a high level of gender parity in access to basic services; the gender parity index for gross enrollment ratio in primary education is 0.98 (World Bank, 2009a).

Masri (2004) categorized gender in education in Jordan's schools system according to the education levels:

Basic education:

Female participation in basic education is slightly higher than male participation. This is due to slightly higher drop-out ratios among males than among females for various social and economic reasons. In general, the gender issue has for some time been successfully taken care of during the past three decades. This is clear from the literacy rates among the age groups 15-40 which stand at about 96% for both males and females. Another aspect of the gender issue in basic education concerns those involved in the teaching profession, where female teachers constitute 63% of the total number of basic education teachers.

Secondary education:

Gender, as in basic education, the gender issue has for some time been successfully taken care of in Jordan in academic secondary education where female participation is slightly higher than male participation. This applies also to the teaching profession where female teachers constitute 54% of the total number of teachers in such education.

Higher education, universities:

Female participation in university education for the first degree is slightly higher than male participation. The situation is different in the case of post-graduate studies, especially for the doctorate degrees, where females constitute only 37% of the total. What is more discouraging in this respect is the gender issue in the teaching profession in universities where females constitute only 16% of the total. The predominance of females in the teaching profession in pre-university education is far from reflected in university education.

In Jordan, as the majority of Arab countries, society is divided into three social groups Urban, Rural, and Bedouins where more than 80% live in urban areas. Some parts of the urban cities, rural areas, and the Bedouins' desert are mostly live in poverty and conservative environment in addition to high commitment to the dominant religion. Therefore, almost all social characteristics, traditions, beliefs, and norms are the same in the Arab region.

In the coming section, I will illustrate several studies and reports that show different factors influence girls' education in most Arab region's countries, where the World Bank studied those countries' social life as one region according to its political unity and geographical position, and to the similarities in their economics, traditions, social life, , and religion. These reports, therefore, were made for most Arab countries as one region, and their results were generalized on all participant countries including Jordan.

According to UNESCO (1994), there are many factors that relate specifically to the low enrolment rate of school-age girls and women literacy:

a) Unfavorable social attitude of some parents towards education in general and education of girls and women in particular, especially in rural and Bedouins' areas;

b) Poor parents believe that the income from the labor of their children to the family is more valuable than sending them to school;

c) In many countries girls start working at the age of 10 years old in the time they should be in school;

d) Girls take a greater responsibility to help in house work, which means that girls are much more likely than their brothers to be kept away from school;

e) In poor families, boys have greater opportunity to go to school more than girls, where the unaffordable school's coasts make parents choose the family's member who has better opportunity to have a job;

f) Distance can also be an essential element; girl's parents would not permit their daughters to walk for long distances from their homes;

g) Teacher's gender is another reason that makes fathers refuse to send their daughters to school, or to a specific education track that exclusively occupied by men;

h) Other issues to be considered include dropouts from the primary education stage especially among females in the rural areas, school violence, and a reduction of illiteracy rates;

I) “A wide gap exists between school culture and local cultures leading to the estrangement of girls and boys from poor families, and rural population. This result in failures, under-achievement and actually, in dropping out;

J) Early marriage is yet another frequently occurring reason for girls to drop out of formal education.” (p.13)

In the year 2004, the World Bank report (GMR 2003/4, 2004) gave similar factors to the low enrolment rate of school-age girls and women literacy through monitoring Gender and Education for All, where the international community is committed to eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary schooling by 2005, and to achieving gender equality by 2015 (World Bank, 2004). Again, all these reasons and factors that I am familiar with, are part of my experience as a former teacher in Amman, Jordan, and a Jordanian citizen. In addition, these factors are reality in the Jordanian social philosophy that cannot be denied.

Jordan has low percentage in out-of-school children rate. However, most of out-of-school children are girls who live in rural and Bedouin's areas. In this respect, Adely (2004) wrote:

A 1996 survey of Jordanians age 15–64, which examined the highest level of education completed, found that the proportions of men and women with basic, secondary, and higher education only varied by 1 to 3 percent, with the biggest differences found among women over 35 with respect to higher education. In contrast, there are significant disparities between rural and urban areas, where there is a consistent gap of about 5 percent in proportion of people with secondary education and a roughly 10 percent gap in higher education (p.358).

In addition, school costs are a major barrier to girls' education in the rural and Bedouin's areas, which suffer from poverty and lack of schools and facilities. “There is strong evidence from more qualitative sources that direct costs are one of the most important causes of non-attendance and early drop-out from school” (World Bank, 2004, p.135). Even where direct costs do not serve as a barrier, it is well documented that the distance of the school from the home has an impact on enrolment. One of the commonest reasons for children not attending school is that their families need them to work (World Bank, 2004). In the time that the family will make a decision “who will go to school,” most of the Jordanian families which marked by son-preference and by discrimination against daughters from the early years of life, prefer sending boys to school where they would have better opportunity to work rather than sending girls who specialize in domestic work, such as looking after siblings, preparing and cooking food, cleaning the house and fetching water and firewood. Moreover, where female autonomy is considered unstable or risky, early marriage is used as a means of securing daughters' futures which result for girls to drop out of formal education. (World bank, 2004). In my opinion, some cultural restrictions on girls' education in particular are also considerable reasons.

Similarly, in the year 2009, the World Bank report (GMR 2009b, 2009) reported the girls' education in the Arab states:

In most Arab States girls are less likely to repeat grades in primary education. However, the situation was less marked as regards school retention. There were as about as many countries where girls had a greater chance of reaching the final primary school grade as countries where their survival rate to the last grade was lower than that of boys in 2005. Within countries there is a strong association between poverty and gender inequalities in education. Gender differences in net attendance rates tend to be wider for poorer households than for richer ones, with the disadvantage being greater in secondary than in primary education (GMR, 2009, p.7). Moreover, cultural attitudes and practices that promote early marriage, enforce the seclusion of young girls or attach more value to boy's education are all barriers to gender equity. Distance to school can also have an impact and is negatively related to girls' enrolment. Overcoming these inequalities requires gender-sensitive public policy and governance initiatives, such as removing fees and providing incentives for girls to be in school. It also implies removing cultural barriers to equity, which requires long-term provision of good-quality public education and strong commitments by political leaders, backed by legislation enforcing the equal rights of girls (p.6). The presence of female teachers may also help increase girls' access to school in countries where high gender disparities prevail. Yet this does not always guarantee gender equality in socialization and learning processes (p. 8).

Therefore, Girls still account for the majority of ‘missing' school children. In 2006, 61% of out-of-school children in the Arab region were girls. However, many studies and reports from different agencies that I will illustrate next indicate that Jordan has nearly achieved- better than any Arab country- the EFA and GMD goals concerning girls' education.

Jordanian progress toward EFA and MDG goals

In this section I will illustrate ordinal studies and reports that show progress toward achieving EFA goal for girls' education.

In December 1998, UNICEF (1998) released its annual survey on girls' education in Jordan. Data indicate that basic level net enrolment rates for girls at the primary level increased from 59 per cent in 1960 to 92.5 per cent in 1995. At the secondary level, girls' net enrolment is 55 per cent in 1995. The increase in enrolment rates had a major impact in terms of combating illiteracy. The illiteracy rate for the age group 15-24 dropped to 3.5 per cent for girls versus 1.9 per cent for boys in 1990. The adult literacy rate stands at 91 per cent for males versus 80 per cent for females for the year 1996 (Abadi, 1998).

A 2000 report by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on Implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action (1995) and the Outcome of the Twenty-Third Special Session of the General Assembly (2000) stated that, girls account for 49 per cent of all pupils enrolled in primary and secondary schools, with girls to- boys ratios of 96.1:100 at the primary level and 102.1:100 at the secondary level; at the university level, there are 98.8 women students for every 100 men students. Illiteracy among women has fallen to 15.2 per cent, compared to 5.4 per cent for men (Ministry of Education, 2000). This shows that Jordan has partially attained Goal 3 of EFA, and Target 4 of the Millennium Development Goals, Targets and Indicators, namely “Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and at all levels of education no later than 2015.”

Recently, UNICEF (2009) website has statistical data which noted both achievements and areas for improvement in the Kingdom. Data indicate that basic level net enrolment rates for girls at the primary level is 98 percent in 2007. At the secondary level, girls' net enrolment is 83 per cent in 2007. The adult literacy rate increased from 91 per cent for males versus 80 per cent for females for the year 1996 to 99 per cent in 2007 for both males and females.

According to the Government of Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (2008), a report by the World Bank carried out in fourteen countries in the region indicated that, education in Jordan ranks first in the Middle East and North Africa. The report, which was released on February 2008, by First Deputy President of the World Bank for Foreign Affairs Dr. Marwan Muasher, during a conference held under the auspices of His Majesty King Abdullah, introduced composite indicators of the educational outputs of the fourteen countries, within the areas of access to education, equality, quality and efficiency. The report included: Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Iraq, Palestine, Djibouti, Morocco, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, and Algeria.

The report showed that Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Tunisia, have done particularly well in comparison with Djibouti, Yemen, Iraq and Morocco have signed with other countries in the middle of the index. The report indicated that all States, except for five (Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Morocco and Yemen) has equality between the sexes, where the report defined the gender equality index as a gross enrollment rate for females divided on the gross enrollment rate for males. In addition, the report pointed out that equality of the sexes in higher education to primary and secondary education in most countries.

According to the World Bank (2009b), there has been sustained progress towards gender parity in education in the Arab States. However, the goal of eliminating gender disparities by 2005 in primary and secondary education was not achieved in most countries; only Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates were at parity at both levels. Gender gaps persist in many countries, particularly at higher education levels. Of the eighteen countries with data available only three were at gender parity in secondary education: Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The 2009 GMR report also indicates that “The region as a whole has made progress towards gender parity in primary and secondary education. However, in 2006, only three countries had achieved gender parity at both education levels: Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.” (p. 7)

Universities and girls education

“The increase in the number of universities in Jordan towards the end of the twentieth century not only reflected the growing participation of girls in higher education but also facilitated girls' access to higher education” (Jansen, 2006, p.486) . Most Jordanian parents encourage and finance a university education for their daughters, and they draw high expectation from their daughters more than their sons. Nowadays, obstacles to girls studying, such as mixing with boys, living away from home, can now be avoided, and since education, especially girls, “is a powerful indicator of social status and prestige in Jordan, girls have in many senses profited the most.” (p.487)

Finally, through my readings and experience, I conclude that Jordan's population tends to approach education considering it a way of having a decent life and safe future, especially for girls. However, this approach mostly exists in the urban areas, but much less in the rural and Bedouins' areas because of many factors were mentioned earlier. Although the enrolment rate of school-age children and drop-out ratios are very low in Jordan, reasons that cause low enrolment and drop-out of school such as poverty and other social barriers -I mentioned earlier -still exist, and it became a part of people's social culture and a psychological tool that should be revised.

In addition, a very interesting note that the Gross school enrollment rates and Net school enrollment rates for primary, secondary, and tertiary levels (for girls and boys) were increased in the year 2000 through 2004, but decreased in the year 2007, However, female to male gross enrollment ratio for the primary and secondary levels was increased, yet decreased for the tertiary level for the years 2000 through 2007(Data available on World Bank, 2009a link).


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