Economic crisis pushes officials to introduce new courses in schools
In an attempt to address Jordan’s economic woes and to create financially educated and informed citizens, Jordan has introduced a new financial literacy course to some 350,000 students nationwide. The curriculum, which teaches basic financial skills as well as money management tactics, is seeking to create a financially savvy generation in a country whose economy continues to tank due to the instability and fighting in neighboring Iraq and Syria.
“This is a direct result of the economic challenges that we are facing,” Mohammed Hussainy, the director of the Amman-based think tank The Identity Center, told The Media Line. “The ultimate goal (of this program) is to have more entrepreneurs.”
Traditionally, many Jordanians have opted for careers in government or the armed forces which offer stable salaries and good benefits; however, as the public sector has become overloaded with too many civil servants, the country is pushing schoolchildren to make different decisions in their future careers. Jordan wants to produce more entrepreneurs and the Financial Education program is designed to do just that.
“The economic future of Jordan remains in the medium and small business projects,” Hussainy told The Media Line.
The financial literacy program, which was launched by the Central Bank of Jordan along with the Ministry of Education and INJAZ (Arabic for “achievements”), an NGO devoted to finding solutions to both the Jordanian labor market as well as the education system, is compulsory in schools and is currently being taught in seventh, eighth and eleventh grades.
While it is not clear what exactly the program will cover, according to Hussainy, the program will teach students business ethics, how to establish businesses, how to access financial and investment institutions and overall financial and business planning.
The goal of the program is to teach students how to become entrepreneurs in an effort to promote small businesses. Officials plan to expand the programs to include ninth, tenth and twelfth grades in all schools, both public and private, in the Kingdom.
“They want to spread the culture of business and finance in the community, which would support development and financial stability and this will lead to social stability,” Hussainy said. “The best way to do that is to start with young kids in schools and not wait until they are post-graduates.”
This program is piggybacking on last year’s attempts at a financial education curriculum, which only included introducing a booklet.
Many officials have noted that financial exclusion continues to be a problem in the country. According to INJAZ CEO, Deema Bib, only about a quarter of all Jordanians have bank accounts and less than five percent took out loans last year.
According to a policy brief written by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), “If individuals do become financially educated, they will be more likely to save and to challenge financial service providers to develop products that truly respond to their needs and that should have positive effects on both investment levels and economic growth.”
Despite the new initiative and governmental plans to reduce debt, the economic situation has grown increasingly worse due, in large part, to the civil war in neighboring Syria and the influx of refugees in Jordan. The general regional instability has limited Jordan’s ability to thrive in their import and export business as many of the borders with neighboring countries are closed and the refugee crisis has led to high rates of poverty, unemployment and debt.
According to Daoud Kuttab, a Palestinian journalist and radio host of the Radio al Balad in Amman, the top issues facing Jordan are “internal sustainability and growth of Jordan and the issue of the refugees.”
“We know we have the refugees here and there is a big (financial) burden on Jordan,” Kuttab told The Media Line. “Jordan is directly affected by (the conflict in) Syria.”
Currently, the total amount of Jordan’s debt is almost the same as the country’s GDP and the rate of unemployment is almost 16% in the country, according to Trading Economics, a global economic research firm.
Katie Beiter is a student journalist with The Media Line