Abu Shreek is convinced that his 12 years of school education could not be matched anywhere outside of
Abu Shreek would like to demonstrate some examples of how rich the content of some of the subjects he studied, and share the most memorable parts of them, from sixth grade until the most brutal, ultimate “educational” experience that a human being could be subjected to: The General Secondary School Examination, known in urban legends and horror tales as (Tawjihi).
Arabic: Starting from the sixth grade textbook (yellow with a back shot picture of a boy in his blue school uniform carrying a rectangular brown book bag on his shoulder), where you can find classic poems and great moral stories like (اكلت يوم اكل الثور الابيض: “I was eaten on the same day the white bull was”) that will stick in forever. That book also featured the hated, very confusing (Differentiate in the meaning: افرق في المعنى), that features very similar words or idioms that differs in one letter or even one phonetic sound that causes a change in the meaning; (Like Birr: charity, Barr: land, Borr: wheat) ,all have the same exact spelling in Arabic. Until you end up after 12 years working on 5 books (count them 5), that you will practically need to memorize (literally) cover to cover for the Tawjihi, in addition to being able to write a perfect essay. (For Tawjihi purposes some teachers composed a template that would fit common topics predicted in the general exam.Now all you have to do is fill-in (the woman, the youth, the education, the environment, the technology…).in the template you memorized, and you have your essay !!! Not a sign of a good educational system, but at Tawjihi time, all the options are open). By the way anyone heard from (علم العروض) lately?
English: It really depended more on the school and individual effort more than curricula. The grammar was exceptional, even in the government assigned books. Before 9th grade you are familiar with tenses, passive voice, if-clauses and reported speech. Literature and conversation skills were a little behind, although starting from the sixth grade some schools covered adapted versions of Lorna Doone, The Black Tulip, The Mill on the Floss (ehh), A Tale of two Cities, and the full version of
French: From “La sorciere a casse la lune” at second grade, to an option of taking the first level of French proficiency test (Fr: Certificat) at seventh grade and the second level (Brevet) at the ninth. Magnifique. Abu Shreek owes that to a superb Algerian teacher: Mohsenn Khalifaaah.
Math: By the eighth grade you are “mathing” at the level of an American (College Algebra) class. At ninth grade you are introduced to basic trigonometry, you are dealing with complex geometry and working on “proofs”; (the “Circle” chapter alone causes traumatic experiences for ninth graders nation wide). At tenth grade you are proving theories in Descriptive Geometry that deals with a point, a line and a plane, and you memorize at least 15 trigonometric identities of the form: sin(u+v)=sin u cos v+cos u sin v! As for Tawjihi, where math counted for 240/1000 points, it is pure Calculus. It can be put this way: if you score above 237/240, you can go through the Calculus (101 and 102) classes in college without opening a book or attending a class, and end up with B’s. It was brutal.
History: Another wide range curriculum, which could have used some little more American history and some more truth. (It was not distortion of facts as much as it was ignoring them). Starts with the history of civilization from eras before the ice ages and passes by all the early civilizations in our region (Bronze era,
Science: Another ridiculously advanced compilation of topics. It splits to separate subjects by the ninth grade. However by the end of 8th grade you are familiar (actually memorized) most of the elements symbols in the periodic table along with their respective ionic charges. You already studied most of the body systems (except for the reproductive of course), and you can name every vitamin in the world, its sources and the effects of its deficiencies and excess. You pass by some Geology along the way to the ultimate mission.
Tawjihi Physics falls along the same lines of the math. Get over (142/160) and you are going to pass (Physics 1, Physics 2, Circuit Analysis (first midterm), Statics (first midterm), Dynamics (first midterm)) without studying. The difference is in the nuclear physics and the quantum physics that you will not use after Tawjihi, unless you take a course in Nuclear Power Plants.
Chemistry features some Stoichiometry, Organic Chemistry, and analysis of compounds on the molecular level.
Biology instantly brings back the sad times of memorizing every Hormone in the human body, and of course the very entertaining “Genetics” and Mendel’s laws. The reason you are losing your hair is that the hair loss gene is dominant in men, recessive in women. It is also carried on sex chromosomes. So assume that your dad is bold and your mom is not but her dad was bold, that means, according to the genetics tree, that your chances of hair loss as a guy or a girl are 50/50.
Now since Abu Shreek is a half-glass-empty kind of person, the logical question is: How is this great background offered to the Jordanian student is not helping the overall picture and resulting in the “advancement” of the society? The interrelated reasons that come to mind are:
(Notice that these are the problems facing those who are fortunate enough to be put in an “ideal” situation, i.e. private schools. Those students offered the best education do not have to deal with overcrowded classrooms, unavailability of books and teachers, transportation issues, malnutrition, and other public school challenges, yet this “elite” education is not paying off locally because of… )
1. The Student: The number of school kids who “wants to learn” are continuously shrinking. Abu Shreek hates that he is sounding like his teachers, and he realizes that school can be a great place to socialize and mess around for 12 years, but to make the decision that you will go through the whole experience and remain an illiterate is just unacceptable. (The problem is that same lazy kid who though it was “cool” to be ignorant, feels a sudden urge to be “opinionated”; he starts writing (what he think is) “poetry” and he may even get his own newspaper column. With the right connections he may eventually hold decision-making position!). When a good percentage of the classmates are interested in the educational process, they challenge and push each other, elevating the level of that whole process.
2. The Teacher: The teacher is the focal point of the whole process, and his working conditions are not pleasant. He/She is usually underpaid, some times is under-qualified and has to exert the extra effort in dealing with the increasingly careless students. This causes the teacher to try to get away with the absolute minimum, and rely on a dull, mechanical and repetitive method of teaching that will alienate the students even more.
Maybe a teacher’s union could be a step in the right direction.
3. The System: The most complained about aspect is the “system” and “methods” of teaching. The school work and tasks expected from the student are very difficult, yet it does not enhance his/her ability to create, nor encourages his individual thinking. Notice how many times the word “memorize” was mentioned above, and “memorize” here means literal exact reproduction of original texts, or what is known in Arabic as (بصم: ?fingerprinting). Some teachers ask their students to memorize math problems. An Arabic teacher would interpret a verse of poetry, dictate it to the students, who are then expected to reproduce it word for word in a test; a student will be denied full credit if he/she slightly changes the original language, even if it conveyed the same ideas. Abu Shreek recalls a history test where some points were inexplicably deducted, and upon revision, the teacher (A Ph.D holder in political science from
4. The University: Local universities are completely oblivious to the concept of research, which makes them nothing more than a bigger version of community colleges. In the process, they are failing to take advantage of the rich background the student has acquired, and hence the effect of that education on the ground remains minimal. The university conforms to the same "school formula" (High difficulty tasks based solely on hours and hours of wasted effort to memorize things, in order to pass a more complex version of the detailed school-styled testing). The capabilities of the well-prepared Jordanian students are on full display by those who choose to pursue higher education overseas. Despite the novelty of the research concept to them, even average students (according to Jordanian standards) excel significantly.