Experts at the second national conference on curricula in Jordan stressed the importance of education for the advancement of society and development of the next generation.
The Islamic Action Front (IAF) party's education committee held the conference, titled "Curriculum changes and the effects on the educational process", July 28th under the patronage of former Prime Minister Taher al-Masri.
In his opening remarks, al-Masri highlighted the role of education in defending social values in light of the attack on Islamic culture and identity the nation is witnessing.
"You hold a great responsibility to reach a better reality for the upcoming generations… such dialogue results in curricula that meet the needs of our society in order to serve its goals and objectives," al-Masri told participants.
IAF Deputy Secretary General Mohammad Akel, who also spoke at the conference, stressed the importance of education reform.
"Constant development of educational curricula should be our top priority, but the wide social dialogue held during the past two years on the subject of curricula changes confirmed that Jordanians see education as the last resort for a better future for the coming generation," he said.
"Although we saw different views on how curricula should be altered, we hope we would not disagree on the characteristics of the future generation."
Focus on curricula reform
Various scholars and experts presented papers on a variety of topics including the impact of curricula reform on the educational process, on teachers and students.
"The rapid change and advancement that has swept all aspects of life, including education, has brought about a sort of an imbalance and [given rise to] many problems and difficulties in the education process," Khawla Abu Haija, former director of the Curricula Department at the Ministry of Education, told Al-Mashareq.
"The information and communication revolution now threatens the local culture due to the dissemination of different cultures that carry within them disparate values and ideas that have consequently impacted all elements of the educational process, including inputs, activities and outputs," she said.
Abu Haija stressed the need to focus on curricula, as they are "the most important gateway to the educational process, which [itself] plays a central role in human development and the advancement of culture and society".
Conference attendees were in consensus over the necessity of achieving balance between reform and modernity in the development of curricula.
They called for bridging the gap between the curriculum developer and the student and teacher, with more focus on the value system underlying new curricula and textbooks.
They also stressed the need for restoring the economic and social status of teachers so they may play their role in generation building and help establish specialised associations and committees to take part in developing, upgrading and modernising the curricula.
Abu Haija described the conference's recommendations as "ambitious and realistic".
"It is easy to implement them when the decision makers have the will and there is a profound understanding of the components of the education process and a joint effort by the various education sectors," she said.
Expanding the scope of curricula
Controversy arose two years ago in education and labour union circles when the curriculum in Jordan was modified.
Conference attendees discussed several examples of the differences between the old and new curricula to understand the nature and objectives of those modifications.
The modifications made to the textbooks in 2016 did not address the ideas of the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) or similar extremist ideas, education expert Thoukan Obeidat told Al-Mashareq, adding that he was not satisfied with the scope of the modifications.
Obeidat stressed the need for the development of curricula that "promote the national identity, citizenship, and human and women's rights" as well as "critical thinking and local, Arab, Islamic and international thought".
Abu Haija said textbooks were not modified for the 2018/2019 academic year. Only the study plans were modified, followed by the selection of a number of textbook subjects as additional reading material, as that was the easiest and most cost-effective solution.
She said she expects the introduction of new textbooks for the 2019/2020 school year.