AMMAN: More than 800,000 students began a “mental and scientific rehabilitation” program in Jordan on Sunday, marking an experimental return to in-class education before a planned full reopening of schools.
The Ministry of Education said that the Kingdom’s 3,971 public schools opened on Sunday to receive a total of 814,000 students from grades 1-11, who registered for the “Academic Loss Compensation Program.”
The number of students in Jordan stands at about two million, 1.5 million studying at public schools and 500,000 at the country’s 2,142 private schools.
The program, according to the ministry, seeks to prepare pupils mentally and academically to return to school and make up for the lessons they have missed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ministry said that it trained teachers at the beginning of August on implementing the Academic Loss Compensation Program.
Jordan, which imposed a nationwide shutdown of schools at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, reopened them on Feb. 7 this year but closed them again on March 9 following a surge in coronavirus cases.
Lessons have been given online through the “Darsak” platform, which provides educational content for public school students from grade one to 12.
Without giving a date for the long-awaited reopening of schools, Ministry of Education’s Secretary General for Administrative and Financial Affairs Najwa Qbeilat said that the Academic Loss Compensation Program aims to help students acquire the basic skills and knowledge that they lost as a result of the online education system (that has been in place since March last year).
In remarks to the Jordan news agency, Petra, on Saturday, Qbeilat said that the program targets students at public, private, military and UNRWA schools.
“The program aims to compensate students for academic losses in Arabic, English, math and science subjects,” she added.
She said that the program will be evaluated in September to decide on the timing of the third phase, which will run between one to two years and through which students will be given weekly classes.
However, parents were divided on Sunday, with some welcoming the return to schools, even partially, and others casting doubt on the program being a preparatory step toward a full reopening of schools.
“I want to see my children back to school regardless,” said Haitham Zaidane, a father of four. “One full year of online education was a nightmare for our family. My children even forgot to behave as children, sleeping early and waking up early.”
“Gradual return to schools is even a lot better, given the psychological impact of distant learning on students,” he said.
However, Aysha Al-Amaireh said that she preferred to keep her six-year-old daughter home until a full school reopening is made certain.
“I don’t want another year of education disruption for my daughter. It’s psychologically not healthy. Either unaltered in-person classes or online education from home,” she said.
Alaa Qarallah, a father of three, said that he was sending his children to school because he was certain that the compensation program will be followed by a full reopening of schools.
“This time I think the government will reopen schools with no disruptions. The coronavirus cases have been declining since long, plus officials have been assuring that this year’s education will be in-class,” he said.
Officials have been promising a full in-person education model this year should the epidemiological situation continue improving, but also warned of a blended learning of online and offline classes in case of a pandemic setback.
The Ministry of Education has previously said that schools will be operating within a health protocol guide that includes many procedures, mainly the rapid coronavirus test, which will be carried out by teachers and health supervisors.
It said that schools will be provided with the necessary testing tools and that students with positive test results will be granted a 14-day study leave, during which they can switch to online learning while the rest of students continue their in-class learning.
Other health requirements include keeping a distance between students inside classrooms and wearing masks.