His Majesty King Abdullah II's ambitious approach to education is best understood through his support for the ERfKE programme: a sector-wide strategy for upgrading and transforming the way Jordan's children learn. With a budget less than half a billion US dollars for its first five-year period (2003-2008), ERfKE represents a massive commitment to Jordan's future.
The internationally-funded programme has numerous partners working to develop many sectors of the educational system. A large portion of its budget is devoted to expanding and improving schools themselves, to deal with the educational needs of Jordan's rapidly growing population. Major ERfKE objectives include improving teaching and learning through new curricula and examinations, creating more facilities for early childhood education, and training teachers in new methods, computer literacy and education strategies using ICT.Some accomplishments of the programme:
- Since 1999, the Ministry of Education has built almost 400 new kindergartens around the country, and 100 existing ones have been refurbished through the ERfKE support programme. A new kindergarten curriculum has also been launched, along with a comprehensive effort to expand early childhood education in low-income areas.
- Improvement of the school environment to support education, by establishing 160 new schools, 800 classrooms to be added to existing schools, maintenance and improvement of existing schools by providing them with 650 computer labs and 350 science labs.
- From 2002 to 2007, new curricula emphasizing research, critical thinking and group work were introduced in all Jordan's schools, along with two new assessment exams that will monitor progress and provide a framework for future improvements.
- More than 60,000 teachers have been trained in using the new curricula, and a large proportion has received supplementary training: more than 44,000 have achieved a basic computer skills certification; 24,000 have studied ICT-in-education methods, and hundreds have been trained in early childhood education.
- The Economic Opportunities for Jordanian Youth (INJAZ) programme has been expanded, and engages corporate volunteers to deliver a wide range of economic and interpersonal communication skill courses to students in public schools.
Based on these and other successes, international donors have now funded ERfKE for a second five-year period (2009-2013) under the supervision of the World Bank. The second phase shifts from a centralised to a more community and school-based programme delivery model. Among its components is a special focus programme addressing early childhood development, vocational education and special education.