An innovative program in Jordan has been helping teenagers in private schools choose their college major over the past six years, but now is feeling the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Set up in Amman in 2014, Hashtat uses a simulated university environment to help schoolchildren between the ages of 7 and 18 identify and learn about academic fields and majors in a practical way.
Its founder, Heba Al Awamleh, a graduate in computer science, says the idea of Hashtat was born out of her personal experience of “the agonizing process” of selecting a specialization.
“I wanted to study engineering and discovered that there are 19 specializations. I had to embrace one,” she said, but there was no one to help. (See a related article, “Programs Help High School Students Find the Right Academic Path.”)
It took Al Awamleh two years to build and develop a strategy for Hashtat, at first experimenting with 15 students to see whether they were able to use the program with ease.
“In 2016, we had a fully-developed program which included 24 specializations” including engineering, medicine, finance, accounting and interior design, Al Awamleh said. Students “end up with four to five specializations that will suit their needs.”
The name Hashtat is derived from “hashtag,” which in social media is a way of saying “we look to develop our programs for the future always,” Al Awamleh explained, and “tat” is a short for “talent and talented.”
So far more than 2,000 students ages 14 to 17 have benefitted from Hashtat’s “mini-university” program, “which allows them to know more about a professional degree they are interested in and thus build their own future,” Al Awamleh said.
Services Offered to Private Schools
The program costs around $350 for each student. It targets private and not public schools, and is not officially recognized by the Jordanian Ministry of Education.
“More than 20 schools have requested Hashtat to present its services,” she said.
Before the coronavirus lockdowns, Hashtat held workshops in schools and organized field trips to universities.