Addressing pandemic learning loss with Jordan’s National Remedial Plan
This spring marks three years since the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 pandemic, which was the worst shock to education systems in decades and resulted in the longest school closures.
Many countries are still emerging from the pandemic, and the policy choices governments make are instrumental in transitioning to a stronger and more resilient system that can withstand other crises. As the pandemic starts to appear farther in our collective rearview mirror, it continues to offer valuable lessons that can help us respond better to similar events.
One of those valuable experiences has been working with the Ministry of Education in Jordan through the USAID-funded Technical Assistance Program (TAP). TAP aims to strengthen the institutional capacity and organizational behavior of the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Youth to improve the quality of services provided to young learners and youth in Jordan.
When TAP launched in 2021, Jordan was struggling with ongoing pandemic-related school closures, which exacerbated the country’s learning poverty and inequality, especially among the large refugee communities hosted within its borders.
In response, TAP embarked on a lengthy and multifaceted process to ensure the Ministry of Education is not just addressing learning loss and remediation in the short-term, but to help the Ministry see past the current crisis and be prepared for future ones.
Assessing learning loss
To start, the Ministry needed reliable and accurate data to understand the priority areas of learning loss. TAP worked with the relevant Ministry departments to conduct a diagnostic study to assess the learning loss and conditions for learning to inform the remedial interventions in the foundational subjects of Arabic and math for Grades 4-11.
The study was instrumental to the Ministry’s efforts in using data to guide their efforts in responding to COVID-19 learning loss.
Developing instructional materials that support learning
Teachers in Jordan were already struggling with limited instructional time and a heavy curricular workload, which made TAP’s task more difficult since the bandwidth for additional instructional materials and teacher training were very limited.
In response, TAP works with the National Centre for Curriculum Development and the Ministry of Education to develop teaching and learning support materials to increase students’ readiness to engage in on-grade learning.
TAP’s remediation materials complement existing materials by focusing on foundational concepts and skills that help get students to the right level without adding more class time. This includes individual student remedial plans and remedial classes.
Focusing on locally-led design and implementation
It is critical to have the Ministry in the drivers’ seat to garner buy-in and ownership at every stage of the process and ensure the Ministry’s response is systematic and sustainable.
TAP engaged with the Ministry and National Centre for Curriculum Development teams at multiple levels through co-creation: From the co-design of the diagnostic study to the data interpretation and analysis workshops, to the co-design of remedial materials, and co-implementation of the teacher training.
This locally led approach supports sustainability as it requires strong political commitment, thorough planning and needs to align with adequate budgeting.
Having a long-term plan
Recovering from COVID-19 learning loss will take a long time. According to the World Bank’s “Guide for Learning Recovery and Acceleration” (June 2022), remediation should be a multi-year and multi-phased endeavor as learners need to both recover from learning loss and improve learning outcomes to pre-pandemic trajectory.
TAP is supporting the Ministry to develop a three-year National Remedial Plan that is due to launch this spring and aims to institutionalize the Ministry’s remedial efforts.
The plan will work towards institutionalizing diagnostic studies, increasing Ministry capacity to assess student needs and advancement, integrating remedial efforts in school improvement plans, and integrating Social Emotional Learning principles in teaching and learning materials. It will also support the Ministry to determine effective instructional methodologies that are child-centered and make the most of the limited instructional time.
Once approved, TAP will support the Ministry’s Education Training Center to institutionalize remedial activities in the Continued Professional Development framework and teacher’s portfolio of performance and integrate remedial support in the School and Directorate Development Program.
Over the next few years, TAP will continue to support the Ministry in implementing its National Remedial Plan and strengthen its capacity to mitigate learning loss and maintain education quality. Jordan’s efforts to address remediation by setting a national plan is an exemplary model for systems change and how locally led initiatives are instrumental in advancing long-term learning outcomes.
Linda Wafi is a Senior Project Director at Creative. She directs the Jordan Technical Assistance Program.