The country's 2018–22 Education Strategic Plan does not provide an explicit definition of inclusive education, although it uses that expression to refer to the integration of children with special needs, including refugees, into the education system. However, the 10-Year Strategy for Inclusive Education (2020–30) explicitly intends to implement inclusive education to ‘establish a culture of commitment to the education of all students, including students with disabilities in mainstream schools, as part of the policy, practice and responsibility of the Ministry of Education’.
The 2016–25 National Strategy for Human Resource Development describes the education system as based on the equity principle, meaning on non-discriminatory and enabling practices for all learners, regardless of their socio-economic status, gender, ethnicity, or physical and/or cognitive disability. Article 19 of the 2017 Law on the Rights for Persons with Disabilities mandates the provision of the optimal level of inclusive education for students with disabilities. It also includes various prescriptions such as the implementation of modern education methodology within education institutions, including special education programmes for students with intellectual disabilities and students with multiple disabilities, provided that such programmes are intended to achieve inclusion, develop students’ academic and social capacities, and reinforce their individual independence to the greatest extent possible.
Special education needs
An explicit definition of special education needs has not been found. However, a special education department has existed since the early 1990s within the Ministry of Education. The 2018–22 Education Strategic Plan refers to learners with special education needs to indicate children and youth with visual, hearing and/or learning disabilities.
Students with learning disabilities have been integrated into general education through resource rooms, separated from regular classrooms, to study specific subjects, such as language and mathematics. However, special education also takes place in specialized schools with or without residential provision, in special classes in integrated schools or in integrated programmes targeting students with learning disabilities.
With the intention of making schools more accessible, there are plans to provide specific services to students with physical, speech and learning difficulties. The special support units consist of a speech therapist, a physical therapist and two teachers qualified to support children with learning difficulties. There is also more generally the vision to include learners with disabilities in mainstream settings. However, while the estimated number of children with special education needs (visual, hearing, learning disabilities) averaged 20,600 in 2016, there were only 338 male and 420 female hearing-impaired students and 105 male/33 female ‘mentally challenged’ students in public schools in 2016/17.
At present, 150 public basic education schools are considered accessible to learners with disabilities. Inclusion of students with disabilities in mainstream settings occurs on an individual basis. The provision of education to children with disabilities in integrated setting by associations and other non-state actors is quite common.
Early identification, screening and assessment
Medical reports are the basis for the definition of special education needs and for education access, as pointed out in the 2016–25 National Strategy for Human Resource Development. Different learning support is provided according to the disability certified. Yet, inadequacy of the tools for education diagnosis, measurement and evaluation are identified as a main challenge in the 2018–22 Education Strategic Plan, whose aim is to increase the enrolment rate among students with disabilities. Currently, five diagnostic centres are operated by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Development. According to the 2018–22 Education Strategic Plan, ‘The MoE would like to establish its own educational diagnostic centers (3 regional and 2 mobile that would also operate in the refugee camps) in order to properly assess the special needs of students.’
As reaffirmed in the 10-Year Strategy for Inclusive Education, early diagnosis is conceived as a fundamental prerequisite for the implementation of inclusive education programmes. The strategy aims to put in place a multidisciplinary methodology to evaluate and identify children with disabilities.
The 1952 Jordanian Constitution contains a non-discrimination provision on the grounds of race, language and religion (Art. 6.i) and establishes compulsory and free elementary education for Jordan’s citizens (Art. 20). Ratifying the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2006, Jordan has committed to ensuring equal access to education to all.
The Ministry of Education and the Higher Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities launched the 10-Year Strategy for Inclusive Education (2020–30) in January 2020, fulfilling the mandate set in the 2017 Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Aligned to the CRPD provisions, the 2010–15 National Strategy for the Affairs of Persons with Disabilities aimed to implement an inclusive learning environment, creating equal education opportunities for persons with disabilities by amending existing legislation. It further intended to review curricula and referral and pre-referral mechanisms and provide adequate facilities and supportive services, including transportation.
The 2017 Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities lays new legal foundations for the protection and promotion of the rights and interests of persons with disabilities. Among others, it reaffirms the principles of equality between men and women with disabilities (Art. 4.f) and of equal opportunities for persons with disabilities (Art. 4.e) and in particular for children with disabilities (Art. 4.g). It contains provision for ensuring reasonable accommodation and accessibility by removing physical and behavioral barriers (Art. 4.i–j). Concerning education, the 2017 law prohibits discrimination in access based on disability (Art. 17.a). If access is impeded because of lack of reasonable accommodation or accessibility, the Ministry of Education is mandated to provide a suitable alternative (Art. 17.b). It also mandates the latter to revise the curricula to reinforce acceptance and diversity (Art. 18.d) and to draw up a national plan for enrolling persons with disabilities into educational institutions (Art. 18.e). To enhance inclusive education, the Higher Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in coordination with the Ministry of Education is required to define the standards for early identification and diagnosis, curriculum development and teaching standards (Art. 19).
Expanding access to inclusive education is also one of the objectives of the 2018–22 Education Strategic Plan. The plan reaffirms a commitment to establish support units in schools and to provide transportation for learners with special needs. In addition, it aims to foster diagnostic capacities through mobile diagnostic centres and new and operationalized centres throughout the country. It also emphasizes the education of refugee students with disabilities, for whom the plan aims to implement a dedicated programme.
The lack of effective enforcement of the legal framework has challenged the provision of targeted services. In line with the objectives of the 2016–25 National Strategy for Human Resources Development and informed by the principles of equality and diversity, the 10-Year Strategy for Inclusive Education commits to ensuring education for all in regular schools, including learners with disabilities. Its aims to increase the enrolment of learners with disabilities into regular schools, alongside accessibility, develop adequate curricula and teaching strategies for inclusive education, enhance the professional development of practitioners and develop inclusive education programmes. To achieve its objectives, the 10-Year Strategy considers essential the formulation of an adequate enabling policy and regulatory environment for inclusive education, integrated within general education policies and legislation.
According to the 2018–22 Education Strategic Plan, catch-up programmes designed for children who are more than four years older than the prescribed age for the grade exist in Jordan. The programmes are expected to be redesigned, devoting more attention to individual needs. In particular, an intensive compensation programme is expected to be implemented, followed by an assessment and registration in public schools. Additional formal and non-formal education opportunities have been set out for children, youth and adults who have not completed education, such as an education and literacy programme for adults, a dropout programme for adolescents and young people, a catch-up programme, a home studies programme and evening classes.
Gender has been mainstreamed in recent national polices and laws. The 2013–17 National Strategy for Women aimed to establish advisory and counselling services to encourage young girls to identify the best education path and reaffirmed a commitment to represent a more balanced view of women in school textbooks and curricula.
School absenteeism is related to poverty, especially for young boys. The 2013 Jordan Poverty Reduction Strategy aims to provide systematic career guidance support to reduce the dropout rate. A school feeding programme for children in public schools in more disadvantaged areas has been in place since 1999 to encourage school retention.
Refugee students receive education in double-shift schools. Having identified refugees with disabilities among those at risk of being left behind, the Department of Special Education intends to introduce a special support programme based on occupational therapy and rehabilitation to facilitate their care and education.
Jordan is also home to over 2.3 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA. The agency provides inclusive learning environments to nearly 120,000 girls and boys in grades 1 to 10.
Gifted and talented learners
Accelerated and/or enrichment programmes specifically target gifted students in specialized separate centres. The 2018–22 Education Strategic Plan renews the objective to create a dedicated centre to support the development of the abilities and skills of gifted students.
Cooperation across sectors
According to the 2016–25 National Strategy for Human Resource Development, governance tends to be fragmented across different entities. This also implies fragmentation of education provision with the Ministry of Education (for the majority of students with disabilities) and the Ministry of Social Development (for students with moderate to severe mental disabilities) with consequences for opportunities to continue education for the respective students.
The 1993 Law of the Disabled Care No. 12 transferred the competency of education for people with special needs from the Ministry of Social Development to the Ministry of Education. The former is still responsible for care, training and rehabilitation services. At present, the Ministry of Health is responsible for the only diagnostic centre in charge of diagnosing disability and in turn determining the suitable education provision for the learner.
The 2017 Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities established a Higher Council for Affairs of Persons with Disabilities (now called the Higher Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) to coordinate the institutional actors involved at the national level in the provision of services to the target group (Art. 7–9). The Higher Council together with the Ministry of Social Development and the Ministry of Education is responsible for the provision of education services for students under the age of 18, while the ministries of Education and Higher Education handle adult and higher education, respectively. The Ministry of Social Development has developed criteria for licensing special education centres. The Higher Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has also set standards for the accreditation of special education centres, while the Ministry of Education relies on a Special Education Directorate for children with special needs.
One of projects outlined in the National Strategy for Human Resource Development aims to ‘[e]stablish a mechanism to coordinate efforts, roles, and responsibilities of the relevant stakeholders, especially those between the MoE, MoSD, Higher Council for Affairs of Persons with Disabilities (HCD), MoH, training centres, civil society organisations (CSOs), and private sector.’ According to the 2018–22 Education Strategic Plan, the Ministry of Education signed an agreement with the Higher Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to rehabilitate four pioneer schools for inclusive education in 2018.
Cooperation across government levels
The 1993 National Building Code regulates standards for facilities, buildings and roads. However, its partial implementation affects accessibility to schools. As stated in the 2018–22 Education Strategic Plan, two schools per year, including kindergartens, are expected to be renovated, with ramps and toilets, to make them more accessible to children with disabilities under the responsibility of the Department of Special Education and in coordination with the School Mapping Unit and the General Education Directorate.
In order to tackle the increased number of students resulting from the migration of Syrian refugees, the government has rented school buildings that do not always guarantee the same school standards.
The lack of adequate transportation service for children with disabilities has been identified as one of main challenges for ensuring an effective inclusive education provision. Budget has been allocated to this activity in the 2018–22 Education Strategic Plan, while the 10-Year Strategy for Inclusive Education has included accessibility and reasonable accommodation as one of its components for the realization of inclusive education. In line with the Building Code Requirements for Persons with Disabilities, the strategy recommends starting from construction works, such as installing ramps and elevators, while the use of rental schools is considered inadequate to meet accessibility standards. It also recommends the establishment of 300 new, accessible male and female school buildings for Jordanian refugees and students with special needs over the next five years.
In 2013, evaluation frameworks and outputs for the curriculum were developed with consideration for gender equality. Although a review of the curricula was one of the priorities of the 2010–15 National Strategy for the Affairs of Persons with Disabilities, the 10-Year Strategy for Inclusive Education recognizes that the existing curriculum creates a non-inclusive learning environment for students with disabilities. Therefore, the strategy document discusses a plan to develop curricula, teaching materials and assessments able to meet the requirements of inclusive education, by, among others, developing standardized procedures for the adaptation of the curricula and by using assistive technology.
It is important to note that the National Strategy for Human Resources Development highlights that the Ministry of Social Development (which provides education for students with mild to severe disabilities) operates curricula and training independently of the Ministry of Education, making it difficult for some of its students to sit for official examinations.
Currently, there is no requirement for teachers to have qualifications on inclusive education. In-service training on special education needs is limited.
The 2018–22 Education Strategic Plan intends to introduce standards and competencies for teachers’ professional development during service, including specific training for special needs teachers. It also aims to provide gender mainstreaming to raise gender awareness and responsiveness of education leaders.
Likewise, the 10-Year Strategy for Inclusive Education has identified the necessity to review pre-service teacher training and professional development to ensure an effective implementation of inclusive education. It therefore sets out to provide educators and school principals with knowledge about an inclusive school environment and train the former to respond to students’ differences within the same classroom. It also aims to recruit teachers with disabilities and promote positive attitudes toward inclusion.
Specialized psychosocial training has been introduced to assist teachers dealing with refugees’ trauma.
Jordan provides an annual education report in Arabic.
For the academic year 2016/17, a new Education Management Information System (OpenEMIS) was launched in cooperation with the UNESCO office in Amman. The new system unifies the data sources in one database and provides comprehensive data on teachers, schools and learners, including refugee children. Through a Geographic Information System (WebGIS), education data are integrated with general figures related to local areas to better support the decision-making process, for example regarding the need for new school infrastructure in relation to population density and growth. The 2018–22 Education Strategic Plan also establishes new indicators to monitor progress in the education of students with special needs and teacher training and standards.