A Double Shift in Education

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the WZB Berlin Social Science Center, and Jordanian-based initiative, Madrasati, have partnered together to promote double shift systems within Jordan’s schools. The idea behind this structure is to have an immediate solution to provide Syrian children with an education.

The most common structure has Jordanian children taking the morning shift and Syrian children coming in the afternoon for the second shift. With small classrooms, scarce supplies and a limited capacity to hold the combined number of students at the same time, this simple solution allows for schools to flexibly educate a greater number of children.

In practice, the double shift system has been in place well before the Syrian Refugee Crisis. Jordan began implementing this system in the 1960s to accommodate an influx of Palestinian refugees needing basic educational services. Educating refugees has shown to not only be beneficial to those on the receiving end, but to the Jordan economy as a whole.

According to double-shift.org, 79,452 school-age refugees are currently out of school. If they were to be placed into the school system, then the gross benefit to the Jordanian economy would be $3,873 per student. This largely has to do with the fact that the more educated one is, the higher the wage they will receive once employed. When commenting on the monetary value-added of having children in school, Director of the Research Unit at WZB, Steffen Huck said: “When we did the math, I was really shocked to learn how good of an investment education is, even under these very conservative assumptions.”

Men JOD 215.6 per month
Women JOD 160.7 per month
Less than Secondary
Men JOD 252.0 per month
Women JOD 185.2 per month
Men JOD 276.0 per month
Women JOD 234.7 per month

Conservative figures taken from www.double-shift.org/making-of

However, many challenges continue to face public schools taking on the responsibility of educating large numbers of students. According to the WZB, schools lack basic resources such as water, heating, and cooling. In addition to poor resources, supplies such as desks, pencils, and paper are needed to be regularly replaced due to the increased wear and/or use by an increased number of pupils.

The EBRD plans to take on these infrastructure issues by supporting projects that provide insulation, heating and cooling, and access to sufficient water supplies. “What we are doing by looking at 2,700 schools is to see how we can improve their infrastructure and infrastructure management and maintenance, especially with respect to heating, cooling, energy efficiency and wherever possible using solar energy to reduce electricity costs. These are things that schools would need in any case, but it is even more critical now that they are running on twice the amount of hours,” said Heike Harmgart, head of office for EBRD in Jordan.

When asked whether the schools had activities to facilitate integration between both student bodies, Huck said: “Arguably many people say that it is not ideal, the segregation. But it appears to be the most efficient and cost effective way to do it.” However, Huck did point out that some activities do take place on Saturdays to help integrate Syrian refugees and Jordanians. Madrasati, an initiative launched by Her Majesty Queen Rania to develop the most neglected public schools, has played a major role in supporting such extra-curricular activities and developing programs that bring children together.

Additionally, WZB hopes their newly released website, double-shift.org, will help to disseminate research and knowledge to a large number of people who may have misconceptions or lack basic understanding of Jordan. The desire is for the website to be used as an educational documentary covering the issues facing the Kingdom and, more specifically, Syrian children today.

Even though this is an immediate step toward providing educational services to Syrian children, both Harmgart and Huck emphasized the need to continue to improve and expand operations throughout Jordan. With plans to double the amount of double shift schools, the desire is for the children who are out of school to be immediately placed into a system that is fit to enable them to continue on with their studies. “I think the prime importance is to get the kids that are out of school into school. You wonder with every year that goes by that a kid is not in school, it will be that much harder [for them] to catch up,” said Huck.

In reality, Huck’s concerns go beyond those that have been without schooling, this issue is further exacerbated by the lack of accelerated programs for children who have been out of school for years and the regulation that denies children access to educational facilities if they have been out of school for three years or more.

By educating the global public about the problems facing Syrian children and the Jordanian education system, there is hope that more people of influence will start to concern themselves with the matter. As the years roll by, many fear that a generation of children might be economically and socially stunted for the mere reason that basic rights and resources were not provided to them when they needed it the most.