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Nationwide campaign launched to add KG to compulsory education

By Dana Al Emam - Feb 04,2014 - Last updated at Feb 04,2014

AMMAN — The Ministry of Education and USAID on Tuesday officially launched the National Campaign to Support Kindergartens (KGs) to increase KG enrolment from 59 per cent to reach all children in Jordan.

Education Minister Mohammad Thneibat said one of main reasons behind the academic weakness of some children in the first three years of primary school is that they did not have an opportunity to access early childhood education.

A year of early childhood education will be added to the compulsory education plan over a five-year period starting from underprivileged areas, at an expected cost of around JD160 million, according to the minister.

“The ministry will organise a national awareness campaign on the importance of preschool across the country,” Thneibat said at the launching ceremony.

In remarks late last year, the minister cited a 2012 study which showed that some 100,000 students in the first three grades are incapable of reading Arabic or English letters.

Alia Arabiyat, director of the childhood department at the Education Ministry, said at the launch that the campaign invests in early childhood — a very rich learning stage.

“The national campaign will create an interactive national curriculum for the KG level, in addition to developing training programmes for KG teachers,” she added.

During the 2012-2013 academic year, 85,463 children were enrolled in 1,060 public and 1,556 private KGs across the Kingdom, Arabiyat noted.

Yet, not all children get to have that advantage.

“We need an additional 814 KGs in the northern governorates, 1,840 in the central region and 214 in the south in order for all preschool stage children to be able to enrol in KGs,” she said.

Muna Abbas, director of the Education Reform Support Programme, which is adopting the campaign, said a number of supportive activities will be announced to the public.

The campaign, which started in early January and is scheduled to conclude by the end of March, aims to raise parents’ awareness of the importance of KG and to increase the participation of youths and community sectors to support KGs.

“We seek to change the rigid concept of learning… by practising methods of learning by playing,” Abbas said.

Lee Cohen, service officer at USAID, said the agency and the Education Ministry have been able to achieve “phenomenal progress” in a short amount of time.

“We have gone from 15 KGs in the Kingdom to over 1,000,” he said, warning that the country is still facing “an early childhood education crisis” since 40 per cent of all children do not attend KGs.

Cohen noted that children who attend preschool go to college “far more often” than those who do not, urging institutions and organisations to invest in early childhood education as it is the “best investment” they can make.

“If parents don’t fundamentally believe in the power of early childhood education, we can build a thousand more KGs and it will not make a difference,” he concluded.

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