What Does the Recent Violence in Maan Mean?

Over the last week there have been recurrent episodes of violence in Jordan, triggered by the tribal violence at Al Hussein Bin Talal University in Maan. On Friday there were rallies held across Jordan condemning this violence and the regime for failing to stop it. This violence at the university, which announced that classes would be cancelled for a third day is tragic, and the risk is that if it spreads it could harm Jordan’s educational system, which is one of the country’s strongest assests. Over the last two decades the literacy rate and the enrollment rates have both increased, despite continuing issues with the exam-based selection process for universities and other secondary education such as medical school. Preventing this type of violence is critical because if it continues for a long enough period it will do lasting damage to Jordan’s educational system even if it were eventually brought under control.

The educational system’s improvements are not merely statistics printed on a sheet of paper. They have produced real benefits for Jordan and is an asset that the country possesses. One of the assets that this has produced is a health care system that is one of the best in the region, where foreigners come to obtain medical treatment. For example, Jordan is currently in a major dispute with Libya over hospital bills that the Libyan government has refused to pay, leading Jordanian private hospitals to stop accepting the Libyan government’s promises of future payment. Why did Libya, an oil-rich state send its patients to Jordan? They were sent there because the medical care was among the best, if not the best, in the region, and the reason why Jordan is able to offer such care is the quality of its education system and medical schools. This is why this type of violence cannot continue.

What is significant about these protests is what the protesters are actually calling for is security and stability and this is what the regime has failed to provide by failing to stop these clashes. This violence is outside the traditional dynamic of regime/opposition clashes. It involves a tribal dispute of unclear origins involving students and their relatives that turned violent in a public place, where anyone could have been caught in the crossfire. Justice Minister Hussein Majali has said that there were 22 arrested for weapons possession but time will tell if this incident is adequately investigated.

At a time of intense political turmoil and a newly-reappointed government steps have to be taken to make sure that this type of incident will never happen again. Many opponents of reform may argue that security and reform are diametrically opposed, but this incident – in which violence occurred

Tawjihi Exams: A Student Dead, A Flawed Exam, and Many Questions

A student is dead in Faqou’ in Karak governorate after riots broke out following an incident at the Tawjihi exams. Someone was caught attempting to help students cheat in an examination hall, and police were called to assist. Subsequently, after the exam about 200 students – and some of their relatives – attacked a police station in Faqou’ and in the clashes one of the students was killed.

This incident comes as other reports of cheating have surfaced on the Tahjihi exams, which are required for university admission in Jordan. Al-Yarmouk satellite network said on Tuesday that it had in its possession a copy of the geology exam approximately 45 minutes prior to it being administered to students. There was also another incident in Jerash where the speakers at a mosque were used to leak the answers to the test to students. The problem has become so severe that the deputy head of the Jordanian Teachers’ Association (JTA) has said that there was a conspiracy to undermine the exams this year.

There is a larger issue though – why is it that this incident took place at all? Why were students and their families so angered to the extent that they attacked a police station when someone was caught attempting to help students cheat. It’s because the Tahjihi exam score is the sole factor in university admissions in most cases. Students frequently study for a year to prepare for them for 6-8 hours a day. This is the fundamental source of the anger when someone was caught attempting to help students cheat. Nothing excuses cheating, but when someone’s entire university admission chances depend on one test, they are going to seek out whatever advantage they can.

Flaws in the reliance on one examination have been pointed out before. Check out this slideshare show by Walid Maani about flaws in the Tawjihi assessment process. Ultimately, the solution is to adopt a more comprehensive method of assessing candidates for university rather than the reliance on one test, the results of which can be affected by any number of factors that have little to do with a student’s prospects for success at university or beyond. That’s the way to prevent incidents such as this one from happening again.

This video cost a Dean at the University of Jordan her job

Below is the video that cost Rula Quawas her job as Dean at the University of Jordan. It was made by a group of female students who were discussing their experiences of sexual harassment for a feminist theory class. Keep in mind as you watch it that she was fired because this video allegedly harmed the reputation of the university.

This begs a larger question: what harms the reputation of something more – the problems themselves or someone who points them out. It is a sad day indeed when people cannot point out problems without encountering the wrath of those who pretend they don’t exist.