Jordan’s universities are being rewired to promote more vocational education in order to meet apparent mismatches with private sector demand. Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Adel Tweissi explains how his new strategy will aim to reduce “unemployable” areas of study from schools by 50%, while boosting the perception of technical studies, which currently are not seen as favorable by the average Jordanian family.
How does your ministry plan to better meet skill set demand from the private sector?
We aim to reduce the so-called unemployable areas of specialization from universities, namely stagnant and saturated areas of study. It will be impractical to eliminate such specializations completely, so we plan to start by decreasing admission to these fields by 10% until we reach a goal of a 50% reduction. This will eliminate the skills mismatch problem we face in the economy.
But how can you encourage students to change their educational mindset?
The other way is to encourage students to pursue technical education, which requires developing and restructuring technical colleges to have modern workshops and new vocations, such as electrical car mechanics. However, the biggest challenge here is cultural. Jordanians see vocational schools as inferior, and we are working with institutions in the country to overcome this.
How else are you promoting technical vocations?
We are restructuring a number of our technical colleges under the umbrella of Al-Balqa Applied University (BAU), which all two-year colleges are under. In Jordan, out of 41 two-year colleges, 14 are public, and the rest are private. BAU is applying an international model to each of the four colleges being restructured. One of the models that this university has chosen to apply is the French technical system
How is the ministry assisting Syrian refugees?
We have been facilitating the certification of higher-education credentials for Syrians, who can’t go back to their country to have papers certified. In the meantime, Syrians pursuing post-secondary studies here have been admitted on a conditional basis. We are also cooperating with technical colleges to conduct courses that we think will be useful for Syrians after the war ends. Today, of the 8,000 Syrian students attending universities in Jordan, about 6,000 of them are enrolled at technical courses at community colleges.
What is your perception of brain drain?
We don’t look at brain drain as a totally negative phenomenon. Jordanians will go abroad and work, bring back remittances and support the economy of the Kingdom. They also invest in their country and through the new means of communication we can have brain regain. This is something that we are supporting financially from our scientific research fund.
How many international students are in Jordan today?
We plan to increase the number of international students from 41,000 to 70,000 by the year 2020. There are currently 107 nationalities studying in Jordan, but most of them come from the Gulf states and Muslim Southeastern Asian countries.
Why should the world take notice of the education system in Jordan?
In Jordan, we are proud of the stability of the country and the security that we have. The high quality of education that Jordanians have also makes us proud; our actual capital here is our human capital. We have been successful in creating a highly educated people, despite regional setbacks and challenges, and the world should take notice of this.