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No easy, timely solutions!

Sep 19,2019 - Last updated at Sep 19,2019

The current standoff between the Teachers' Union, demanding a prompt raise for all teachers in public schools, and the Ministry of Education, tying the raise to improvement of performance over time, has generated a lot of interest and attention from the public.

Naturally, most people sympathise and empathise with the teachers, whom everyone, including ministry and governmental officials, agrees do need the said raise.

The fact, however, that the standoff has dragged on longer than expected shows that solving the matter is more complicated than many think or would like to think.

For one thing, the government does not have the required amount of money at hand for the prompt raise to happen, taking into account the current economic recession, globally and nationally.

Jordan is neither an oil-producing country, nor an industrial one, and the money it receives in the form of aid or loans from several countries or international organisations comes with strings attached, and the government has to think simultaneously of several key sectors and projects to allocate money towards, and not just teachers' pay.

For another, workers in several other sectors, who work as hard as teachers and whose financial situation is as pressing as that of teachers, are closely watching to see if the teachers do get a raise, so that they will also start demanding one for themselves.

The matter is both economic and financial on the one hand, and political on the other.

And there are other, more complicated and complicating aspects and dimensions to the problem, of course, related to the teachers' profession as a whole, which had its glory up to the mid-1970s, and then started losing its glamour and fast deteriorating in many respects: Pay, social status, quality of performance, environment, etc.

The point here is that there are no easy solutions to the matter, and even if the government had the required money available to give to the teachers, the problem would not be solved.

Several crucial matters are at play: Teachers' pay, teachers' status, teacher qualifications and certification, teachers' skills and overall performance, quality of students' learning, reliability of public-school education, parents' expectations, ministry's goals and plans, etc.

Emotionally: We all want quick solutions, want teachers to be happy, want their performance to be up to our expectations. We all love, respect and appreciate what teachers do.

Realistically and rationally: Effective solutions need time, as there is a lot of planning involved, careful consideration of all factors affecting the matter, vision as to where we are and where we want to be, meticulous implementation, etc.

What needs to be done to speed up the process of an effective solution, is perhaps to form a committee of experts and experienced people — from the ministry, the union, university specialists, the lower house and the senate, the private sector, and others — to study the matter carefully and propose solutions to all related matters, including pay.

The committee could be given an ultimatum of 3 to 4 months to present a clear-cut plan of action agreeable to all parties involved, one that takes care not just of teachers' pay but of their overall status and performance, and our expectations of our public education.

In the meantime, the strike should be suspended, and our children should be allowed to receive the education they should have been receiving since the start of this academic year.

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