Friday, August 01, 2008

Do You Want Your Kid to Join a Jordanian Private School?


Parents want the best education for their kids, no question about that. Parents from lower and middle-class families start saving money as soon as they have kids in order to provide good education for them later in life.

For the poor, private schools is no option. They don't even consider it.
For the rich, public schools is no option. It destroys their stature making them labelled as cheap for the coming generations. There are very few exceptions to this rule, very few.

The families struggling with it are those reamining in the middle class, who really suffer with the high expenses of educating their kids in private schools, and wonder if it's really worth it.

I'll try to point out what a private school offers that public schools do not.

1- Foreign Langauges. There are more English-class lessons in most private schools, although I know quite a few graduates from such schools who are horrible in English. I know quite a few public school graduates who used to take extra lessons for reasonable prices during the summer or were fortunate enough to have excellent English teachers in school and they really excelled in English. I still have to say that private schools helps you think in English and not just speak it.

The other langauge is French. I attended the National Orthodox School (Orthodoxiyyeh) for 11 years, took French for 9 of then, was always top of my class in French, was top of my school in the Brevet test, but was never able to fully communicate with a French-speaking person. I have to say though that had I lived in a French-speaking country right after graduation, I would have mastered the langauge much more easily than someone who never took Fench classes. More than 90% of my class knew NOTHING about the language after 9 years of studying it although we had at least 3 weekly classes in French.

Also when I was able to learn Spanish later in life much more quickly because of the similarities in French and Spanish.

I remember some graduates of other schools like Frere, the Rosary school, and Lady of Nazareth were really fluent in French. So if you're really looking for your kid to learn French there's a way to go with these schools.

2- A non-Tawjihi program. I totally sympathasize with parents who do not want their kids to sit for a Tawjihi program. I'd rather have my kids do GCE/IG or whatever British system is there than do Tawjihi. Public schools do not offer that, and it's so overwhelming for a student to sit for exams in both systems although they can independently do the GCE tests.

I sat for GCE and my school had some really outstanding teachers. Some private schools have worked hard to provide well-trained and experienced teachers and their students score very well. However there are quite a few schools who consider these British systems a way of collecting more fees from students, since students in these classes pay astronomically high fees. Many of these students are really not hard workers and they join the British system because it's "cool" and believe they don't have to work as hard as Tawjihi students. They end up learning the hard way that they were wrong, and the school does nothing to alarm them. Besides, many IG/IB teachers are just teachers who speak English and are not trained to specifically teach this British or American material to their students.

There can also be a very rich Arabic material in the British system. I studied the Jahili, Islamic, Ommayad and Abbasi potery very extensively. I mastered grammar, I was really able to "a3reb" every single text written in Arabic including poems, verses from Quran and road signs. Translation too was vital to passing these tests. So don't forget about your kids forgetting their mother language if they study in English for 2 years in high school.

3- Extra-Curricular Activities. First, remember that most private schools charge a lot for such activities like music, drama or sports. Students in public schools can join these activities in different centers in Amman for cheaper prices. Some private schools offer very little in terms of these activities. Again, look at graduates from these schools. Most graduates of private schools do not really excel in some extra-curricular activity and most of those who do (like in playing piano or singing) did so because they were trained by somewhere other than the school.

4-Learning Christianity, that's only available (as far as I know) in some private schools. I know some Christian parents who really struggle to afford fees for their children just to keep them in a private school so they can learn the religion. However some churches teach Christian classes although they're not as intensive as the ones schools offer.

5- Mixed Schools: Some people like me believe a school should be mixed. There advantages of having boys and girls study together outweigh the risk, given that they're closely watched and certain rules are strictly applied. I studied in such school and we had a very healthy environment. that is something that's available in private schools only so you may view as an advantage.

6- Transportation. Private Schools provide transportation for your kids. Again, parents have to pay for this and it's usually a lot of money, but at least they have the option.

7- Better teaching???? That's a tough one. I really don't have an answer for this. I saw some awfully horrible teachers in private schools, but the good thing is that they did not last too long. The administrators in my school usually listened to parents' complaints and may fire a teacher if s/he is not doing his/her job appropriately. That might be the case in some public schools too where the administrator is really dedicated to their job and do care about their school's reputation. Now if you go outside Amman, you can find a whole bunch of public schools where most students fail at Tawjihi, mainly because they didn't have a physics or biology teacher in 5 years, or because there were 50 students jammed in one unheated class in a 5-degree weather where there isn't a chance to ask a single question.
Having said that, you need to look at Tawjihi scores and you'll find out that a lot of top students come from public schools. It's usually the same 4 or 5 public schools though.

In conclusion, there are some potential advantages of some private schools over public schools, but you can easily find a public school that is better than many other private schools. One thing for sure, is that you're not ending your kids future with placing him in a public school. The money you spend in a some private schools is absolutely not worth it and will not pay back.

36 comments:

secratea said...

while i was in school, 2nd through 12th grade, there were no close private schools in the area we lived in in Jordan, so I attended public schools all my school years. I turned out just fine, and I actually feel way better about my education than a lot of my relatives and friends who attended private schools.
regarding my kids (when and if i ever have any), i still think i'll send them to private schools because i totally can see how defected our public schools have become.

Khouloud said...

Interesting topic, one correction, students of Acadeemiyyet Amman (Private school) and through the past couple of years have been getting the highest scores in Tawjihi, the highest avergae in the kingdom was scored by Lina something bi santi il Tawjihi, and she's a Amman Academy graduate.
Also, why is it that you pity those who sit for Tawjihi? My parents wanted me to join the IG stream because my older brother and sister made them believe that one needed a miracle to pass Tawjihi, but my Tawjihi year was absolutely the most beneficial year I spent at school, it's a shame the matrek system was canceled!
BTW I went to il nasrah at some point in my life and you're right, I still remember a couple of words from grade two's French class! I can't spell them bas I can pronnounce them. I can also sing in French, and Filpini, but that's a different issue

Anyway, I'm all for enrolling boys in public schools 3ashan ma yitla3ou khir3een bas there are some downsides to it akeed for all the reasons you mentioned except for the Tawjihi thing

Hareega said...

secratea.. As I said some public schools are way much better than some priavte ones, I can name a few priavte schools which were really awful (at least during my time in the mid-1990s). But I remember in medical school seeing a patient in the clinic with mental retardation who had a very low IQ and couldn't even write his name and he was upgraded each year until he was in Tawjihi. He failed Tawjihi of course, but again he couldn't write write his own name and he was being upgraded one calss after another! That's some crap only the government can come up with!

khouloud.. I think the best thing about Tawjihi is that it teaches students to study really hard and placs them under a lot of responsibility. The worst thing about the system is that it judges students by their performance only in their last year in school, and up to recent years students were obliged to sit for exams in some topics they really don't choose. The nice thing about the British systems is that students are asked to pick up whatever number of subjects they want and there are a lot of options. Also the typr of questions asked really tests if the students understands the material well. At least during my time the English and Arabic tests included material from the textbook that students have been studying all year through. It doesn't encourage students to read different references and investigate topics further. There are these 6 or 7 seven books study them well and you'll ace the test.

khouloud said...

Hareega: That's not true, for one Tawjihi students get to choose a stream, whether it was 3elmi, adabi, IT or fandaqa and a lot more, also, in every stream fi optional subjects, bil 3ilmi only the highest two of four marks a student gets in scientific subjects are included in his average, and it doesn't only encourage students to work hard on their last year in school because everything in Tawjihi depends on former information a student should have gained through his 11 years in school.

S N said...

Very interesting!
actually it is highly debatable even here in the UK; such a developed country; whether private or public schools are better for your kids – and to whether mixed education is better for boys and girls; or not.
It is the same in Amman, because you can find good public schools that have better reputation beyond that of any “grammar school” or private one. As to mixed-sex education - they actually argue that girls tend to perform better in mixed-sex education schools than boys, who usually suffer embarrassment and behavioural issues when it comes to performing in front of girls at certain ages, which might affect their total performance.

Studying through a British programme to attend British examinations, is an extra good thing, since our Jordanian Universities teach most their 101 subjects in English, and that’s where GCE. And other systems graduates may benefit. But whether parents can afford it is reaalllly questionable and probably not foreseeable at all. I know about many Saudi boys and girls here in the UK in boarding schools, who attend British education from secondary school to later graduate degrees and then go back to Saudia, and I bet there are many Jordanians who do that as well (only rare few).

All in all, does it really matter?!
If you’ve got your country’s or family’s bank pumping money to you wherever and whenever you wander in the world, does that mean you’ll be a better off person, or you’ll achieve more than those less fortunate, I highly doubt it. Because if you are rich or middle class, or whatever - they’re will always be some one there higher up, no?

caroline said...

I am one of the people who went to the 'traditional' private schools of amman and then to the 'nontraditional' ones as well.Sisters of Nazareth was really good in teaching a bit of discipline and manners besides teaching good french and english.I then moved to the jubilee which was a different experience(back then though now it is declining admittedly)....it was mixed and offered different stuff.What I think is that the old traditional private schools r still good and structured,the new schools however offer more variety and more extracurricular activities and travelling as well,and offer the IB and GCE(which r harder than twjihi akid).It is now getting very expensive to out ur kids thru school bec life in amman is getting unbearable for the middle class,who r really becoming the poor class(but still in disguise),bec when u r a doc or an engineer and earn 400-500JDs per month(if u r lucky)it is beyond ur imagination to pay more than that for a school's tuition.I feel sorry for the 'middle' class who can't afford the middle class schools,cars,food or anything 'middle' anymore.

lost within said...

hmmm...well, I was a public school student and it wasn't that bad !
My English isn't that bad and I had my share of extra curricular activities, my class had 23-25
girls in it and I am more than proud to say that our class changed 3, or where they 4 ? , physics teachers!
The English books I had 3ala ayyami , since they change them a lot , were not that great ! I hate Amra & Petra ! but the new ones are a little bit better !
I would've loved to learn a third language though ! I am planning on doing that but I just can't find time !

Regarding the religion part . I will not be sending my kids , if I ever have any , to a religious school ! I can instil the bases of my faith in them at home but I'd rather send them to nonreligious\secular schools than sending them to a place where they will be brainwashed and probably exposed to blasphemy instead of true religion .

Kholoud says that we do get to choose 3elmi , Adabi or IT but I think choosing sth that is as vague as "3elmi" isn't the best way in orienting a student ! We decide on which stream we're going for after 10th grade which somewhat late if you ask me . other than the delay , students will end up taking subjects that they are not interested in and\or won't make use of in their higher education !
There are career guidance tests that , in my opinion , should be applied before letting us decide !

Now , Tawjihi might depend on a student's background from previous years , but it is mainly about working ur butt hard that year !
the more u study that year , the higher ur grades are !

khalas , daya3t shu kont bedi a7ki kaman , I think I blabbered enough already n_n !

Hareega said...

KHoULOUD, you can only do Tawjihi in your 12th year of school, you can't do some topics in the 11th grade for example. I guess the system is a little better now than what it used to be, but why not let all topics in Tawjihi free for any student to do, and any student can pick up whatever topic s/he wants, and who deteremines whether or not they should get into college is the colleg itself and the Tawjihi people. Meaning: I want to do geography and history and maths and arabic and french and maybe these topics will let me in 5 different universities across Jordan. Why is it up for the Tawjihi people to decide what topics I can do and not do, a lot of students can excel in topics in both 3elmi and adabi

Hareega said...

s n, i think male students can also suffer a lot of behavioral issues if they don't interact with females all their life. Maybe the school could be the only way to do so. In Jordan if you've got rich parents you'll be rich or at least live comfortably, but doesn't mean you'll be well-educated. I know some super rich kids who failed Tawjhi fifty million times. They don't have talents. They're totally useless. They're dumb but they won't suffer.

Caroline, you can't be middle class anymore if the household income is less than a 1000 JDs. Quite a highly professional people like engineers and doctors make less than 1000 JDs. And sorry for screwing your school's name!

Lost Within, I don't think there are any secular schools in Jordan. All students have to attend the religion class, except Chrisitian students in public schools. Maybe some international ones? Not sure. About learning languages, you have to start thinking in that language to know you've learned it. The English curriculum in Tawjihi isn't that great. We're still better off than almost all other Arab countries in English, but we should emphasize more on it. Students often have a very hard time when they start studying in English in their first year in college.

khouloud said...

Lost Within,

Ya3ni I try not to stereotype a lot but every person who spent his school years in private schools has a distorted image of public schools including myself, I'm glad that is how things are in purblic schools! As for your last parafraph on Tawjihi, it's not true, I was an A student my whole life, bil Tawjihi ma kuntesh adros as much as everybody else did, everybody else ya3ni my friends illi kanou tyous zaman and I got the highest avergae, 89, so it really has a lot to do with your former studying habbits, plus, il awa2el 3al mamlakeh dayman hummeh illi toul 3omerhom awa2el bil madraseh.

HAREEGA: Laish il capital letters? It feels like you're screaming, tab khalas barja3sh banaqshak ba3ed ma asalle7lak akher ma3loumeh :D Il adabi fiyyo mawad 3ilmiyyeh, bas il sawad il a3tham min il mawad adabiyyeh, kaman fiyyo computer! Wil 3ilmi fiyyo mawad adabiyyeh zay il thaqafeh il 3ammeh wil deen, w bardo fiyyo computer, bas il fikra inno every stream concenrates on ishi mu3ayyan, ya3ni mish iza a students joins il adabi ma byakhod mawad 3ilmiyyeh, as for your question, I have no clue why the Tawjihi people get to decide on that, bas so far it proved to be a good policy, mumken il British and American systems are good, having a different system doesn't make it worse, it's just different!

Hareega said...

khouloud, about the last year it's true. You won't find someone who was a below average student all of sudden excelling in Tawjihi, despite some few examples here and there.
About Adabi and 3emli, ok now here's the problem: eza wa7ad adabi laish lazem yakhod mawad 3elmiyyeh and voice versa? some people like only to take sceintific subjects. Some people may only like sceintific subjects but wanna add 2 langauges to that because they're good at it, or maybe someone likes history but wants to add geography to it because he's good at computers, or maybe someone like me likes sceintifiic topics except physics and doesnt wanna do it. It's best just to have 20-30 topics and let thre students choose whatever topics they want, with a minimum say of 7 topics , and whoever decides if they should go to collge is the college itself and not the people making the tawjihi exams

Saned! said...

Def a private school, but as you said not any private school. A good one, with only a couple drawbacks, would be the Amman Baccalaureate School.

ArabianMonkey said...

I've been to 8 schools in 12 years. 2 of them in Jordan. The CMS/Ahliyyeh experience scarred me. I learned to hate wanting to learn, and I hated that feeling which frustrated me and ruined 2.5 of my growing up years. I think I cried daily. The absolute shocker was religion class. I could not comprehend why Muslims and Christians had to learn religion separately, and why we couldn't learn about other religions as well. I had a big problem with that. Huge. I failed religion class coz I couldn't understand why it was only one point of view that was so absolute. Thankfully the next school enrollment was dependent on an entry exam and not some ridiculous report card from CMS.

I left in 7th grade and came back to Amman mid 10th, and thankfully went to ACS - the tiny (way back then), expensive American School on 7th. I am a better person today for what ACS offered me. I was lucky, and I know that unfortunately this not a viable mass solution here.

But what lethargic schools can learn from the likes of ACS is the true and pure passion to instill the desire in kids to want to LEARN HOW TO LEARN. That's all. That is the biggest gift of possibility, and the most precious thing a teacher can give a student. And that is not an elitist, expensive, exclusive ability. It's just a soulful, true one.

And Tawjihi has just got to go. It's a thing of the dark ages. It's not practical, nor realistic, nor driven by common sense, nor a guarantee for success or failure. It just does not work. If only we allow ourselves to accept this defeat!! The sooner we do, the faster we get out of this rut and on the track of inspired transformation!

Generally, the school system is managed by people who fear the weapon of open learning. Schools need a revolution. That's all it takes. The internet and this incredible web we're weaving is already helping with that revolution.

Hareega said...

arabianmonkey, thank you for sharing your experience. 8 schools in 12 years, that is soooo tough!! About the religion classes, that's how religion is supposed to be , it's one-point-of-view, undisputable. There are social science classes and comparative religion classes where students can compare religions but that's usually college-level classes.

ArabianMonkey said...

Wasn't as tough as you imagine - I loved the moving around, it fascinated me actually. CMS was a challenge for the most part ;) the culture shock of edu style and approach I suppose.

".... it's one-point-of-view, undisputable"

And that is the problem of the current learning institution. Indoctrinating one point of view in a kid while growing up in the years they are nurturing their intellect? No wonder people are without compassion and tolerance. They're ignorant!

In life, really, really, there's no such thing as indisputable. What happened to the conversation? What happened to understanding? Look at this blog and the many blogs that provide a necessary daily staple to keep it real!

But everything changes. Education has hit rock bottom and the world feels/suffers this. The one-way learning system is on it's way out the front gate.... there is an enlightened generation on it's way in, and they are incredible givers, and inspiring mentors, and tolerant thinkers, and eloquent speakers, and soulful listeners, and brave hearts - the possibilities they bring with them are amazing. And they exist at a time when they can reach out beyond school walls because there is a hunger for a better world, and the tools at their disposal will conspire to help them.

Hareega said...

Arabian monkey, the way religion is taught everywhere in the world is by not accepting other religions' point of view. That has nothing to do with tolerance. If you believe in this speicific prophet and that God said exactly those specific things in this certain book that's the religion. IT's mutually exclusive to belong to more than one religion.

However tolerance (to me) is accepting the freedom of other people to make their choice in whatever religion they want to follow, and accepting the fact that many people may not want to pick your religion or any religion whatsoever and living with this fact and not looking down on them. This is something religious men can teach but more importantly our kids should start to realize. I think we're all born racists and tolerance is something that should be taught.

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Alice Marzouka said...

I have read the post, and also the comments related. I graduated from Nazareth school in 1997, it was a very strict school and all I remember is that everything was forbidden, other than that education was really great when it came to languages, so good that in Italy, where I actually live, I work in an export office where all my colleagues are graduated at uni in foreign languages and I always have to correct some of their written communications. Concerning the teaching of religion classes, both were available, and none of the classes ever brain washed any of us. Another thing private schools care about is the perfection of pronunciation when it comes to foreign languages, believe me, when I talk to english customers they think I'm english, and when I talk to French customers they think I'm French. So, honestly, I'm proud of my parent's choice.

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