People might think that maybe a student following the literary path had limited capabilities, compared to those who studied Elmi. But language skills are important, too. Would you be able to articulate a proper sentence without a language teacher, or publish your research paper in an international journal without a professional translator and editor?
Unfortunately, for many students, the decision of which stream to study boils down to the concept of prestige. The idea of having someone in the family who is a doctor, scientist, or engineer would essentially give off the shiny image of the well held-together, elite Jordanian family. This, of course, is not to put down students who have a natural leaning toward studying the sciences. If anything, I encourage pursuing the stream that matches well with one’s future endeavors, because I encourage excellence in every field.
On the other hand, there are many notable people who excelled in literary fields, like Edward Said, the Palestinian-American professor of literature and literary critic, who was famous for his book Orientalism. And who could forget Moustapha Akkad, the Syrian-American director of movies such as The Message, which portrayed the life of the Prophet Muhammad to the English-speaking world.
However, how is one to achieve such distinction if they are forced to study Tawjihi courses that they find uninteresting in the first place?
Self-Confidence Is Affected
When looking back at my first semester at Yarmouk University, I remembered one of my classmates defending her reasons for choosing English literature as her major. She exclaimed that her mark on the Tawjihi was in the high 80s, which was high enough for her to be accepted into any engineering course she wanted. She went on to mention that studying English was purely her choice. But what I didn’t understand was why she felt the need to justify herself.
This in turn reveals the deeper issues that come with downgrading the literary stream: A student’s self-confidence is hit because of the overall negative criticism toward the literary stream, and the lack of encouragement for students to choose paths that complement their strong suits.
Nevertheless, the accounts that I heard throughout the term were not only limited to students who studied the scientific stream. During one of my lectures, a student with a literary background stated to our professor bluntly that she would have studied media, economics or anthropology if it wasn’t for her family who pushed her into an English major. This is because they considered it to be the “cream of the crop” among the Adabi majors, and they believed that future employers would pick her over someone with a political science degree.
This in turn made me feel that many Jordanians have a misguided outlook toward the literary fields in general. Why should one compromise their strengths to protect themselves from society’s opinions and judgments?
When public attitudes ultimately decide for high school seniors, young people are hindered in their attempts at achieving brilliance throughout their own unique journeys. With this, I can only hope that one day our voices will be loud and bold enough to encourage Jordanian youth to discover their strengths, in order to study what they see fit for themselves to reach their goals and ambitions.
Sarah Abdel-Hadi is a Jordanian-Canadian who lives in the Gulf and is a recent graduate of Sultan Qaboos University, in Oman, where she majored in English literature.