Growing with Books selected Jordan as its first project because of the government’s commitment to improving educational opportunities for its citizens. Jordan has the highest literacy rate in the Middle East—89 percent. However, Jordan is a resource-poor nation, struggling to develop a skilled, internationally competitive labor force.
A small Arab country, with a rich heritage of history and antiquities, Jordan is about the size of the state of Indiana, with a population of 6 million. It is bounded on the north by Syria, in the east by Iraq, in the south by Saudi Arabia, and in the west by Israel. Amman is the capital and the largest city.
The overwhelming majority of the Jordanian people are Sunni Muslims—about five percent of the population is Christian, primarily Greek Orthodox. Other religious groups include Circarassian and Druze communities, which have assimilated into Jordanian society, while maintaining their distinct cultures.
Jordan has one of the lowest standards of living in the region. Widespread poverty, unemployment, and inflation are compounded by a continuing influx of refugees and displaced people from neighboring war-torn nations.
Since 1999, King Abdallah has undertaken reforms to spur economic growth, improve healthcare, education, and human rights, including the rights of women.
Education in Jordan
Although almost every child enrolls in primary school, only about 19 percent complete high school grades 7–11, and 10 percent receive college degrees.
Children do not begin public school until first grade. Early childhood education is available only to those who can afford it. About 23 percent of children under the age of five have access to private preschool—for children under three, the figure drops to 4.4 percent.
Although Jordan has made substantial progress in providing a public education to its citizens, the nation’s economic progress is threatened by its lack of a skilled work force equipped to compete in the Information Age.
As the world becomes increasingly dependent on technology, Jordan’s current education system relies on outdated, rote-based learning, instead of problem-solving capabilities and teamwork. The result is a mismatch between the skills of graduates and the needs of a knowledge-based global labor market.Jordan is responding to this challenge by making education a priority. The government’s educational reforms include overhauling curriculum and teacher training, addressing unsafe and overcrowded conditions in schools, and establishing early childhood education.