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Improving Teaching in Jordan

A TC delegation rolled up its sleeves in Amman in August.
In August, Teachers College sent a delegation of faculty members and consultants to Amman, Jordan to assist Jordan’s Ministry of Education in making mass-scale improvements to the nation’s public school system. Members of the Teachers College delegation led a five-day retreat to design pre-employment training for Jordan’s newly hired public school teachers.

In addition, several visiting faculty members stayed on to teach Jordanian public school teachers a three-week course in the Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

“We are pleased to be able to draw upon the expertise of the world’s leading graduate school of education in designing and implementing new programs in teacher training and professional development, as well as in content knowledge and pedagogical technique in specific subject areas,” said Dr. Tayseer Nueimi, Jordan’s Minister of Education.

“The efforts of our faculty in Amman are another important step in our ongoing partnership with Jordan’s Queen Rania and the Ministry of Education there—work that we are hopeful will be every bit as much a learning experience for Teachers College as for Jordan’s public schools,” said TC President Susan Fuhrman.

The visit by the Teachers College delegation reflects the broader involvement of Columbia University in Jordan. President Fuhrman visited Jordan in the fall of 2006, along with Columbia’s President Lee Bollinger, following an invitation Queen Rania extended at a dinner at President Bollinger’s house in New York City. That visit was followed in summer 2007 by the six-week visit of 11 Jordanian public school teachers to TC’s summer TESOL certificate program.

“Columbia is deeply committed to engaging in educational exchange and partnership in the Middle East—and Jordan, through the vision of Their Majesties King Abdullah and Queen Rania and the Ministry of Education, is an ideal location for us to base our work,” said Dr. Safwan Masri, Professor at the Columbia Graduate School of Business and Director of Columbia’s Office of International Relations.

The five-day “design retreat” facilitated by the TC delegation was attended by more than 100 prominent Jordanian educators, including Ministry of Education staff and faculty from Jordanian universities. Jordan hires between 4,000 and 5,000 new teachers each year for its public schools, but at present the new teachers enter the system with only the equivalent of an undergraduate degree.

“A large percentage of new public school teachers in Jordan don’t have any professional training,” says Thomas Corcoran, who directs Teachers College’s participation in the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE), a federally funded center for research on public school policy that was founded in the 1980s by President Fuhrman.

Dr. Corcoran is the principal investigator for the Teachers College project in Jordan. “Hiring is done centrally through the civil services, with college graduates signing up and getting the call as positions open. The Ministry’s goal is to provide pre-employment professional training, almost like a fifth-year teacher education program in the U.S.

The four Teachers College faculty members who taught TESOL courses in Jordan are James Purpura, Linda Wine, Barbara Hruska and Charles Combs. The courses they taught were held at King’s Academy, the boarding school recently created by Jordan’s King Abdullah II near Amman. The chair of the board of King’s Academy is Columbia’s Dr. Masri, who also serves as an education advisor to Queen Rania.

Jordan has a critical need for more English speakers, and for teachers who have expertise in teaching English based on work in a setting with native English speakers,” said Dr. Purpura, Associate Professor of Language and Education at Teachers College.

The Teachers College delegation expects to continue TESOL instruction online with Jordanian teachers in the fall. They will also conduct research to assess the effectiveness of the program.

In the future, other Teachers College faculty members are expected to visit Jordan to offer to public school teachers in math, science, special education and other areas.

Ongoing exchange Jordanian teachers Mohammad Zammanoun (left) and Affaf Koshman visited TC in 2007.


Published Friday, Oct. 10, 2008


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