Education spending, enrollment dynamics and the impact of COVID-19 on learning in Jordan – Jordan
Objectives and introduction
This article is part of a set of five fast-track and interrelated policy briefs covering key issues in Jordan’s current macroeconomic and human landscape. The education policy note reviews the initial response of the Ministry of Education (MOE) to the COVID-19 pandemic, some key considerations for future policy formulation, and the simulation results summarizing the potential impact that the pandemic can have on learning. More specifically, the note builds on the Public Expenditure Reviews (PER) conducted by the World Bank in 2016, DFID in 2020 and the International Monetary Fund‘s document on Social Spending for Inclusive Growth by focusing on a sub – set of relevant data points for policy makers for immediate policy review. This policy note is divided into two parts: Part one explores the use of education services by socio-economic groups, refugee status and gender, including access to technology and online resources before the start. advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. The aim is to highlight the main differences in household spending, access to educational services and technologies in order to better understand which subgroups are at increased risk when schools close. Part II presents the simulation results predicting the negative impact of COVID-19 school closures on future learning and income. The simulation results are based on various assumptions and present multiple scenarios taking into account the expected duration of school closures and the government’s response.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the closure of schools around the world, leaving more than 103 million students out of education systems in the Middle East and North Africa, including 2.4 million learners in Jordan. The Jordanian government (GOJ) responded quickly to the initial outbreak by imposing a nationwide lockdown, including the closure of all educational institutions. To minimize disruption to learning, the Department of Education (MOE) has sought to take advantage of various distance learning tools, the most important of which – Darsak – an online educational platform developed and managed by the private sector was made available for the 12 school levels. In this way, the Ministry of Education was able to ensure that lessons, exercises and advice were made available to students during school hours, covering all essential subjects from grades 1 to 12. the tawjihi, the high-stakes exam at the end of upper secondary school. The Ministry of Education has also supported teachers by continuously deploying new interventions to facilitate the transition to distance learning: a new teacher training platform launched in May 2020 offers courses on learning tools at distance, blended learning and educational technologies. Finally, once the initial shock was mitigated, the MOE developed the Education Plan during the 2020/22 emergency (EDEP), which presents the short and medium-term educational response to the COVID-19 pandemic in three phases:
(a) Response phase (March-May 2020) – corresponds to the quick response described above.
(b) Recovery / corrective phase (June-August 2020) – Since the distance education provided will likely lead to learning gaps for those who were able to access it, and even greater gaps for students from vulnerable and disadvantaged backgrounds (including Syrian refugees) who could not not access television or the internet, the Ministry of Education plans to provide a one-month remedial program before the start of the new school year in September 2020. In addition, schools will prepare during this phase on the return of pupils, in particular by ensuring the minimum health and safety measures required.
(vs) Sustainability phase (September 2020-September 2022) – Having made the rapid leap to distance education, the MOE sees the benefits of maintaining the gains made in its ability to provide distance education by better integrating distance education into traditional classroom education. In other words, the Jordanian education system will not only recover but ‘rebuild better’ during this phase, with the MOE exploring the possibilities of leveraging high quality distance learning content as a complementary resource for students during regular hours and by piloting blended learning modalities.
MOE’s EDEP is fully aligned with international leadership on preparing for and sustaining the reopening of Safe Schools. In April 2020, UNESCO, UNICEF, the World Food Program (WFP) and the World Bank jointly published the Framework for the reopening of schools, which establishes a sequence of activities leading to the gradual return of students to school. This framework aims to inform decision-making on when to reopen schools, to support national preparations and to guide the implementation process, as part of general public health and education planning processes. The framework recognizes that interruptions to classroom instructional time can have a serious impact on a child’s ability to learn. The more marginalized children are out of school, the less likely they are to return. Prolonged closures disrupt essential school services such as school feeding and psychosocial support, and can cause stress and anxiety due to loss of peer interaction and disrupted routines. These negative impacts will be considerably higher for marginalized children, refugees and children with disabilities. The framework describes three phases of how to go about reopening schools, each with a set of key activities (see Figure 1).
Despite the strong response from the Ministry of Education, the risk of a protracted pandemic linked to loss of learning and inequalities nationwide remains high. The Syrian refugee crisis continues for a ninth consecutive year, with more than 230,000 enrolled school-age children currently living between host communities and refugee camps, who are at enormous risk of being left behind, in addition a large proportional number of undocumented refugees. Children from families with low socio-economic status and temporary homes, already facing great educational inequalities and the risk of learning poverty, are now increasingly vulnerable. Although mitigation measures have been put in place, such as extended hours of electricity in the camps and data-less access to the MOE website, much greater attention needs to be paid to ensure that the fracture digital does not create an even greater learning divide. Previous outbreaks such as the Ebola crisis have shown that closures can lead to learning losses that disproportionately impact vulnerable populations, and have highlighted the importance of effectively using distance learning tools while by promoting equitable access to minimize the impact of disruption. This policy note is divided into two parts: Part one explores the use of education services by socio-economic groups, refugee status and gender, including access to technology and online resources before the start. advent of the COVID-19 pandemic; the second part presents the simulation results predicting learning loss and potential labor market outcomes, as well as the effect on average scores. The simulation results are based on various assumptions and present multiple scenarios taking into account the expected duration of school closures and the government’s response.
This note should be read in the light of two important analytical elements. DFID PER highlights several key statistics that present the landscape of public and private education in Jordan. Real spending on education remained stable between 2013 and 2019, while the number of students fell from 1.1 million to 1.4 million, indicating that real spending per student declined significantly during this period. period (DFID 2020). The composition of spending has remained mainly on workers’ compensation at around 93 percent of current spending, while the period 2013-2019 is characterized by discrepancies between actual and budgeted capital spending, varying between 65 and 115 percent of conformity. During this period, the learning outcomes captured by the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2018 show tangible improvements in reading, science and math. Although this is only a single data point, it shows a stagnant or declining trend since the adoption of PISA in Jordan.
An increase in public social expenditure per capita (education, health and social transfers) of 10% could reduce the gap in the human development index from 20 to 65%. The International Monetary Fund‘s Social Expenditure for Inclusive Growth report highlights the need to create fiscal space that directly bridges the equity gap in social outcomes, while focusing on streamlining the efficient use of resources. resources in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region (IMF 2020). Jordan, like most countries in the region, lags behind in terms of socio-economic outcomes and the relative efficiency of spending on social programs, with significant gains to be made with targeted programs.