Jordanian schools cheer better learning environments
By Maggie Farrand
May 7, 2014
Representatives from the Ministry of Education, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Creative Associates International, local training partner ASK for Human Capacity Building, and Jordanian media gathered on April 22 at Amman’s Intercontinental Hotel to commemorate the end of the Learning Environment Technical Support program.
The event welcomed more than 100 guests, including several from the USAID: Beth Paige, Mission Director; Lee Cohen, Deputy Director; and Nour Abu Al-Ragheb, Education Specialist.
“USAID is proud to have worked with the Ministry to improve the learning environments in 120 Jordanian schools by making them safer, healthier, and more caring environments for students, staff, and community members,” said Paige in her address at the April 22 event.
The Learning Environment Technical Support program was implemented by Creative and local partner, ASK.
A school environment that is safe, healthy, caring and engaging helps to improve student performance and attendance, as well as teacher effectiveness. More than 75 percent of participating schools reported having made measurable progress in creating a positive learning environment.
“The promise of what is possible in Jordan’s schools has always been bright,” said Sylvia Ellison, Senior Associate at Creative. “Certainly, the results of this collaborative effort bear witness to what can happen when schools lead change.”
Within three semesters, nearly 50 percent of participating schools demonstrated that the program interventions were correlated to a drop in negative behavior; girls’ schools showing the highest drop in negative behaviors, at 71 percent, with boys demonstrating a drop of 45 percent.
Working through school-elected teams
The Government of Jordan, in its bold education reform, is working to strengthen and integrate critical thinking, problem solving, workplace skills and e-learning approaches into its schools’ core education curricula.
A large component of the government reform is to improve the quality of learning environments.
Creative’s Learning Environment Assessments evaluated the conditions of schools across Jordan focusing on the behavioral climate and structural conditions of schools. The assessment confirmed that parental engagement was low, reports of verbal and physical abuse were high and schools often had an atmosphere of distrust and low expectations.
To address the issues found in the assessments, the Learning Environment Technical Support program focused its work at the school level.
It established Learning Environment teams at each of the 120 participating schools. The teams consisted of the principal and at least two teachers; each team was assigned a coach, trained by partner organization ASK.
Through these teams, the schools’ most pressing issues were addressed. Once problems were identified, teams were responsible for uniting the school community and offering possible solutions. Activities included anti-bullying seminars, school clean-up days, art contests and teacher training courses.
The Learning Environment teams received training in results-based benchmarking, so they could assess and document their school’s progress towards its self-identified goals.
After three semesters of programming, the participating schools are now able to define and regularly measure their own progress. They can compare themselves to not only neighboring schools, but also against international standards.
As a result, some of the LETS schools have elected to compete for the prestigious Queen Rania Award using the Learning Environment Improvement benchmarking system as their guiding tool. The same tool is also now a part of the Jordan National Education Reform Agenda.
Some schools have taken the initiative to partner with neighboring schools to share their experience on how best to improve school learning environments. Now, schools not involved in Creative’s program are beginning to use some of the same activities to promote improved learning environments within their own communities.