This week I escaped the office and traveled out to the lower-income neighborhoods of East Amman, a world away from the shiny high rises of West Amman, to visit three nonformal education centers with Questscope program coordinators.
In Jordan, if a student has dropped out of the formal education system for three or more years, he or she cannot re-enroll. This nonformal education program allows dropout students to earn their 10th grade equivalency, and then go on to either vocational school or sit for the tawjihi exams (passing the tawjihi is like earning a high school diploma in the US)
The nonformal education sessions are held after regular school hours in classrooms at public schools, and vary considerably in terms of attendance, teaching style, student level, even availability of resources. For example, at one center, four Jordanian girls were learning specifics of Arab grammar by working quietly on worksheets provided to them by their facilitator. At another, 20 boys (eight of them Syrian refugees), crammed around three round tables in a sparse classroom and learned about shapes.
All facilitators are supposed to be utilizing student-centered learning in the sessions; that is, students are supposed to actively involved in their own learning process. Teachers should facilitate and guide students during this process. A challenging model to be sure, and one that the three centers haven’t yet adopted. The need for more training has been mentioned to me by all facilitators and program coordinators.
My language skills aren’t nearly where they need to be to engage in any real conversations with students yet, although for the most part they patiently wait as I stutter out my sentences. The effort seems to count for something, anyway. My Moroccan accent has been noted more than once: which I kind of love but am also surprised by… I didn’t think anyone would notice since I’ve cut out the Morocco-specific vocabulary. In the evenings I’ve been working out of a Peace Corp language manual on the Jordanian dialect, and come Ramadan I’ll enroll evening classes at a local language school. For most in-depth conversations during the site visits, Rasha, a Questscope staff member, has acted as a translator. She has been extremely kind, but I’m looking forward to not having to rely so much on her.