This was my third year speaking about the economy at the Jubilee School (a not-for-profit, independent, residential, co-educational secondary school) in Amman, and as usual, I emerged from the interaction with these bright young boys and girls highly impressed, enriched by the experience, and feeling great about the future of Jordan and Jordanians.
The school is different from the other schools in Jordan and a model to be emulated. Its establishment was announced in 1977 as part of the celebration of King Hussein’s Silver Jubilee. However, it only materialised 16 years later, in 1993, after years of planning, research and training of teachers and staff to provide a four-year comprehensive programme for outstanding students. In 1997, its first-class graduated. The school moved permanently at its current location in 1998. It is now under the purview of the King Hussein Foundation.
The school, like several other high-quality (usually privately owned) schools in Jordan, emphasises learning through exploration and experimentation, stimulating higher-level thinking skills, enhancing problem-solving skills, group work, decision making, learning outside the classroom, responsibility towards the students’ larger community, communication skills, own initiative, and treating failure as a learning ground.
Its students, who come from all over Jordan, consistently score among the top 10 per cent at the nation’s standard exams, and attend the best universities worldwide. They are brilliant orators and expositors. During my session, one young (14 years old) speaker made a presentation on the economy that would challenge some of Jordan’s top economic managers and decision makers. Her ability to assimilate facts and data, analyse and present problems and solutions in the span of 10 minutes was outstanding by any measure. And she was one of many.
At the recent conference I attended, the young students were discussing the applicability of various economic systems to Jordan; the impact of violence at schools and universities and how to curb it; and many other things. Their insight, aspirations and output were worth listening to by Parliament and government. Our youth really have it all together.
Needless to say, and it should be obvious by now, I am a fan of this school. But I am not alone in admiring it. In fact, I am in great company; King Hussein once said: “When I am in deep stress, I resort to the Jubilee School where I enjoy the democratic educational environment which is based on freedom of speech, and responsible, mature dialogue.”
So why is this school different? Not because it is nonprofit; some other excellent schools are also nonprofit. And definitely not because it follows an inquisitive methodology; some other schools may be using equally and possibly even better methodologies. It is exceptional because it is made affordable to the average Jordanian household.
Unlike the other distinguished private schools in Jordan, the Jubilee School is affordable; and it is completely based on the merit of the students, not the income of the parents. If one is a hardworking student, he/she will get in and the parents’ finances will not suffer excessively. Also, since the students are admitted based on merit alone, they do not value greatly the income/status/rank/origin of the parents of their peers; they only compete in terms of personal achievement at the school, as they should!
And they do achieve! Over the years I came across several of the Jubilee School graduates. Some work in the top companies of the world, others already own companies that are worth millions and are likely to put Jordan on the creative economy map. They are free spirits, creative destructors and first-class innovators.
So why is affordability so important? In Jordan, in order for labour to be mobile, the children of the not so rich must also be able to obtain a topflight education. It is through proper education that the children of the poor and lower middle class are able to pull themselves, their families and societies out of poverty and unemployment.
Solid and sustainable contributions towards Jordan’s development are being made by having this school flourish and continue to exist, decades after the passing of its widely loved founder. Maybe one day, the vast majority of our public schools will be like the Jubilee School.