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Graduation and after

Jun 03,2019 - Last updated at Jun 03,2019

Last week, I experienced the proudest moment in a parent’s life: celebrating the achievement of one’s child. It was a school graduation, but on the day, my wife and I were as proud as peacocks and we still are.

Graduation is also a time of nostalgia not only for the graduates, who part with the safety zone and with friends they have known for most of their conscious lives, but also for parents. I found myself remembering with fondness the teachers who taught me in my school years, and reciting prayers for those among them who have passed away. It is true that you carry a good teacher in your heart for the rest of your life.

Thirdly, graduation is a time for reflection on the prospects that will open for the graduates, thanks to their education. Of course, no same person would undermine the value of education. Nelson Mandela described it as the most powerful weapon that you can use to change the world. Years earlier, Victor Hugo said that he who opens a school closes a prison. 

But is education a guaranteed ticket to respect and career progress? Not so, according to the young in South Korea, who coined the word “kkondae” to describe a narcissistic older person, usually a man, who expects unquestioning obedience from his juniors. A kkondae would never admit his mistakes, but he is quick to criticise others and to retaliate against any challenge to his authority.

But we need not go to Korea to find examples of kkondaes. According to Minister of Culture and Youth Mohammad Abu Rumman, whose intellect I hold in high respect, the presence of 70 and 80 year-old officials in government, who have held high posts continuously for nearly half a century, is a source of insecurity for the young.  

It is an anomaly in a country where more than 50 per cent of the population is under 20 and youth unemployment is very high. The young have energy and they are better at handling technical issues in the executive. Older people have the advantage of experience, which makes them better suited for consultancy functions.

Finally, Jordan often takes pride in describing itself as a centre of excellence, particularly in education. Indeed, Jordan’s only prospect for advancement is through education. In the past, young educated Jordanians were the country’s principal export, and their remittances were among its main sources of revenue. 

The time has come, however, to take this comparative advantage a step further. Our brothers in the Arabian Gulf have developed their own institutes of higher education, which means loss of value for our institutes and our graduates in their principal market.

Given also that Jordan’s population size has long since far outstripped the country’s carrying capacity, we now need to start thinking beyond the region and to work on competing globally. This is easier said than done because in China alone, if you are one in a million, it means there are 13,000 people as good as you.


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