AMMAN—More than half of Jordanian universities failed a national proficiency exam held by the ministry of higher education last month.
The exam is administered to students but the government then evaluates the universities by how well their students did. This is the first year where all students expecting to graduate from Jordanian universities have been required to take the exam. The exam seeks to measure students’ competence in the disciplines necessary for their academic goals and evaluates what public and private universities have achieved in their work with the students.
The exam provided a strong dose of bad news for Jordanian educators. “The overall results were weak, shocking and less than our ambition,” said Bashir Al-Zoubi, director of the higher education accreditation commission in a press conference.
He hinted that the results show frustrations linked to social problems in the country.“Students’ oral and written skills are very poor, which clarify the reasons behind violence in some universities,” said Al-Zoubi. Jordanian educators have speculated that because students’ communications skills are so low, they are incapable of dialogue and resort to violence.
The disappointing test results provoked a storm of controversy. Some people blamed careless students, while others criticized national educational policies.
“I am feeling bad about the result,” said Mustafa Ibrahim, a 23-year-old student in civil engineering at the University of Jordan. “I do not deny my mistake as I did not take the exam seriously, but our professors also didn’t explain the importance of the exam.”
Around 20,000 students at 43 universities, who should graduate this winter semester, took the exam. The accreditation commission plans to propose considering the exam result in graduate recruitment. The test results would be part of students’ graduation certificates, so poor scores would hurt their ability to go on to employment or other education.
Only 18 universities out of 43 passed the exam. Moreover, no university passed the proficiency exam in engineering, science, agriculture, and computer and information technology.
Unemployment stood at 12.3 percent in Jordan in the fourth quarter of 2014, according to the Department of Statistics. The figures showed that joblessness was especially high among graduates with bachelor degrees, standing at 16.8 percent.
Students and professors alike said the test took them by surprise. “The exam is unfair against students,” says Mustafa Hamarneh, a linguistics professor at the University of Jordan, the largest public university in the country, which ranked 7th in the exam result. “Students should have prior notification to prepare themselves. Also professors should know the exam mechanism to explain it clearly to the students.”
Some professors said that the test should be taken seriously. “We can’t hide behind our finger anymore,” said Soad Adailah, a professor of comparative literature at Yarmouk University in Irbid city, using a common Arabic proverb. “There is a serious problem, which needs to be fixed.” she said.
Adailah believes that the reasons for this imbalance go back to “the incompetence of many of our professors, who are not willing to develop the skills and knowledge they have learned many years ago.”
A successful passing score for the test was regarded as 45 percent. The highest achieved score for a student was 53.42 percent. The best institutional performer was the Faculty of Educational Sciences and Arts, a small non-profit group run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. Princess Sumaya University For Technology, and Al-Balqa` Applied University got the second and third ranks respectively. Meanwhile, the worst performance was awarded to the Mutah University in southern Jordan, which has been troubled by violent incidents in the past three years.
“The exam reveals the deadly need to develop higher education regulations, university admission policies and increase the subsidy for public universities,” said The Jordanian national campaign for defending students rights, a student movement established in 2007, said in a press release.
“This exam must be continued and developed in a way that contributes to reconsider the strategies of improving our universities,” says Fakher Daas, the coordinator of the campaign. “It shows students’ flaws and the decaying educational system.”