Teaching in Jordanian Universities

Another two Jordanians I know are returning back with their prestigious doctorate degree. One of them is an Anthropologist, the other is an Engineer. Although the Anthropologist spent more than six years here in the State but he did an excellent work. He has published works and a field experience in his major. The Engineer is working on the latest top wireless technology. When they go back to the Jordanian universities guess what they will work on? Or how the universities will benefit from their expertise? Nothing but to teach classes that has nothing to do with their research area.

The research in Jordanian universities (and in the Arab world) is in a catastrophic level. Every one knows that, I am not saying any thing new. Many statistics were published about the research level in the Arab world. But let me talk about Jordan. I did my Bachelor degree in Jordan and my Graduate degree here in the US and I can tell you there is no comparison between the amount of homework assignments and projects that are assigned to students in the American universities with those in the Jordanian universities. I remember when I was an undergrad student at most there was 20% of the total grade for lab assignments. In most courses no more than 10% for projects and homework. During the semester we almost have nothing to do until the week of exams. Undergrad students in the American Universities are intensely and continuously pushed to do weekly presentations, homework assignments, and projects. So, how can a professor grade all these assignments, quizzes, projects, etc. if he has for example 500 students? Simply, because for every X number of students (depends on the university and the department) the department assigns a TA to help the instructor in the course. Last Winter 2007 I was among six TAs for a programming CS course for 340 students.

Since a professor in Jordanian universities has no helpers, such as TAs, he has to take care of every thing in his course such as, teaching, office hours, grading homework assignments, exams, etc. Being overwhelmed with teaching and grading hundred of students, a professor has no time to spend on his research assuming he is doing a theoretical research that does not require labs or huge finance.

Our Universities should think seriously about starting quality research. As they say in Academia “Publish or Perish”. We can start by changing the way we assign homework to undergrad students. For every course, students have to do a project that may involve small group of students, five for example, and they have to research about the subject, write it in a formal report and present it in front of the class. By the help of their instructor they can improve it and present it to businesses or whoever interested in such work. Or may be it could be extended to graduate research work.

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