Experts question advantages of merging education ministries

Ministry of Higher Education
An undated photo of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. (Photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — Pundits questioned the viability and advantages of a planned merger between the Ministry of Education with the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research.اضافة اعلان

They contend that the role of the Ministry of Higher Education has traditionally been confined to assisting in the administrative and financial affairs of private universities, but has barely interfered with their curriculum.

Nevertheless, the government’s decision to amalgamate the two ministries is widely seen as a step by the state to distance itself completely from the business of private universities.

“The merger decision is not new,” proclaimed Fakher Al-Daas, a coordinator for the activist group, the National Campaign for Defending Students’ Rights, commonly known as Thabahtoona.

“We don’t see it as a merger, but rather a cancelation of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research because it seems that the government wants to gradually distance itself from the affairs of the universities,” Daas told Jordan News.

Last Sunday, Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh announced plans for public sector modernization. He told a press conference that a road map identified seven components that form the framework of the process of modernization of the public sector and that need to be dealt with as top priority: government services, procedures and digitization, organizational structure and governance, policy and decision making, human resources, legislation, and nurturing an institutional culture.

Khasawneh also announced that “government ministries and departments will be merged between 2022 and 2024, without prejudice to the rights of workers or dispensing with their services”.

He asserted that a modernization committee assessed “97 government departments and institutions, excluding the security services, armed forces, and municipalities”.

Khasawneh added that the seven components focus on serving the public in line with the output of the economic and political modernization visions.

According to the prime minister, the first phase of the program will end in 2025, when its impact will be evaluated and the second phase will be designed.

Under the public sector modernization plan, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education and Scientific Research will merge with the Vocation Training Corporation under one entity to be called the “Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development”.

The merger is expected to be completed during 2022–2023.

While the state committee held scores of meetings and workshops with various groups to assess any possible ramifications from combing the education ministries, serving university presidents said they were not consulted, Al-Ghad News reported.

Fawwaz Abed Al-Haq, president of The Hashemite University, told Jordan News that the business of all universities across the Kingdom should be independent of the Ministry of Education.

He suggested that a council for higher education be established, as was the case before a Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research came to existence.

“All the university affairs should be brought back to the universities themselves, including the process of hiring and firing, and bonuses,” Haq said. That should not be under the jurisdiction of any ministry, just like in other countries.”

Haq blamed the debts of universities on their low tuition fees, as set by the Ministry of Higher Education. He gave an example of the tuition of a student majoring in English language, saying his fee is JD65 per one credit hour at the Hashemite University, but JD16 at the state-run Yarmouk University.

Daas, the Thabahtoona coordinator, said he expected a hike in tuition fees in all universities following the merger.

He pointed to a declining quality of education in general in pre-graduate institutions across Jordan, stemming from a shortage of an estimated 10,000 teachers and administrators at Jordanian schools.

Education expert khalid Tqatqah praised the merger decision, saying it will have a positive impact on the education quality since human resources are now involved with the education in one ministry. “This will improve the hiring process,” he noted.

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